Author Archive Céline Hanzen

Exciting post-graduate and postdoc positions with the Aquatic Ecosystem Research Programme !

Exciting post-graduate (MSc and PhD) and postdoctoral funded positions are available within the Aquatic Ecosystem Research Programme (AER). Our research group is based in South Africa in Nelspruit, University of Mpumalanga and Pietermaritzburg, University of KwaZulu-Natal. 

The Aquatic Ecosystem Research Programme is an applied research programme of the University of Mpumalanga, University of KwaZulu-Natal and Rivers of Life Aquatic Health Services CC. 

Our field of expertise include river connectivity, fish spatial ecology, fisheries research, environmental flows and ecological risk assessment. The posts pertain to research in the Nile River Basin and in South Africa; the Orange-Vaal River in the Northern Cape, Thukela River in KwaZulu-Natal, Olifants River and Sabie River in the Kruger National Park. 

The successful candidates will have to develop a research project fitting into our focus research themes. The successful candidates will be integrated in a larger group of postgraduate students working in aquatic ecology within the AER. As part of an applied ecology group, the candidates will be expected to participate on other projects within the group.

Requirements : 

  • Sc., Hons. degree in ichthyology, aquatic ecology, environmental sciences, zoology or similar (MSc for Ph.D candidates, PhD for Post doc).
  • Willingness to conduct field work and participate on surveys with other Post-graduate students within the group.
  • Drivers licence IS A MUST HAVE (experience driving 4x4s and towing trailers/boats would be an advantage).
  • Enthusiastic, driven, hard-working, team player and pro-active.

Applicants are required to send a CV and motivation letter (1 page) and 2 reference letters. Please clearly state the nature of the post being applied for (MSc, PhD, or Postdoc) and specific areas of interest related to this advertisement. For any more information please contact Dr. O’Brien ( or Linda Hulley ( 

Applications close 5 December 2018

New horizons for AER !

In July 2018, Dr. Gordon O’Brien took up the post of a the Senior Lecturer in Ecology within the School of Biology and Environmental Sciences (SBES) at the University of Mpumalanga (UMP). The UMP has only recently been established (2013) with the commitment to develop as an African university providing leadership in knowledge creation and dissemination. The SBES has committed to become a flagship school of the UMP and develop training and research excellence, and community engagement in the region

Dr. O’Brien is now based in Mbombela in Mpumalanga and will continue as the Programme Leader Aquatic Ecosystem Research Programme which in effect has increased the regional spatial footprint from KwaZulu-Natal to include Mpumalanga. For the foreseeable future post-graduate students of the AER will primarily be registered at UKZN although some will be based at UMP and work from Mbombela. Together with local stakeholders of UMP including local and provincial government, SANPARKS and the IUCMA for example we have tremendous opportunity for training and applied  research, and we want to ensure that our endeavours in our expanded region meet the needs of the very stakeholders we are committed to make a contribution to.

On the 31st of August, Dr. O’Brien hosted a UMP-AER stakeholder workshop that was attended by a range of local scientists, managers and conservationists. Together we have established a mandate for the AER at UMP and established group structures and research opportunities to grow with staff and facilities into a responsible, effective research unit in Mpumalanga.


Sea to Source 2.0 : connecting fish, rivers and people !

The new Sea to Source 2.0 book is out and our team has been involved in it ! Matthew and Gordon talk about yellowfish and free flowing rivers in South Africa.

The electronic version of the book can be downloaded for free as a low resolution PDF file.

Key ouput 2017 : Tag retention in the African tigerfish !

This paper was published as part of Francois Jacobs PhD thesis. Francois is a former AER student who graduated in 2018.

Jacobs, F. J., Weyl, O. L. F., Libala, N. S., O’Brien, G. C., & Downs, C. T. (2017). Retention of plastic-tipped dart tags in African tigerfish Hydrocynus vittatus. African Journal of Aquatic Science, 42(3), 299-301.

Accessible here. 

Key output for 2018 : the movement of the Orange-Vaal largemouth Yellowfish in response to water quality and habitat features.

A paper focusing on fish movement !

Ramesh, T., Downs, C. T., & O’Brien, G. C. (2018). Movement response of Orange-Vaal largemouth yellowfish (Labeobarbus kimberleyensis) to water quality and habitat features in the Vaal River, South Africa. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 101(6), 997-1009.

Accessible here. 

Key output for 2017 : IUCN Red List status of local fish species

Gordon and Wesley have been reviewing some local fish species : Enteromius gurneyi, Labeobarbus polylepis, Silhouettea sibayi. At the time of the review, we also wrote an article about the process of the review for our South African fish species, here

Kubheka S, O’Brien GC, Evans, WD. 2017. Enteromius gurneyi. (amended version published in 2017) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T63262A111041325. 1.RLTS.T63262A111041325.en. Downloaded on 21 September 2017.

O’Brien GC, Cambray J, Engelbrecht J and Bills, R. 2017. Labeobarbus polylepis (amended version published in 2017) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T63262A111041325. 1.RLTS.T63262A111041325.en. Downloaded on 21 September 2017.

Kubheka S, Craigie J, O’Brien GC. and Evans WD. 2017. Silhouettea sibayi (amended version published in 2017) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T63262A111041325. 1.RLTS.T63262A111041325.en. Downloaded on 21 September 2017.

Key output 2017 : The future of fish passage !

A key peer-reviewed publication for 2017 !

Silva AT, Lucas MC, Castro-Santos T, Katopodis C, Baumgartner LJ, Thiem JD, Aarestrup K, Pompeu PS, O’Brien GC, Braun D, Burnett NJ, Zhu DZ, Fjeldstad HP, Forseth T, Rajaratnam N, Williams JG and Cooke SJ. 2017. The Future of Fish Passage Science, Engineering, and Practice. Fish and Fisheries. DOI: 10.1111/faf.12258

Accessible here. 

Key out put 2018 : A regional-scale ecological risk framework for environmental flow evaluations

A key output for 2018 !

O’Brien, G. C., Dickens, C., Hines, E., Wepener, V., Stassen, R., Quayle, L., … & Landis, W. G. (2018). A regional-scale ecological risk framework for environmental flow evaluations. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 22(2), 957-975.

Accessible here  !


Key output 2017 : River Health Programme – State of the rivers of KwaZulu-Natal

In 2017 the AER completed an evaluation of the ecological wellbeing of the 16 major rivers in KwaZulu-Natal. This includes results from eight seasonal bio-physical assessments undertaken by the AER between 2014 and 2016. The outcomes provide stakeholders of the managers of rivers in KwaZulu-Natal with critical information they require to protect our riverine ecosystems.

Key output 2017 : Regional scale ecological risk assessment

In 2017 the AER released a final draft report of the Holistic Risk and Environmental Water Requirement Assessment of the Lower Thukela River and eMandeni Stream. This study involved updating the Ecological Reserve for the Lower Thukela River, and the established flow-ecosystem and water quality-ecosystem relationships used in an internationally recognised regional scale ecological risk assessment framework established by the AER. The study will to contribute to the establishment of a sustainable balance between the use and protection of water resources in the lower Thukela River and Estuary.