Postdoctoral Fellows

Dr Sanet Hugo

Office: PD Hahn 6.74

Research Interests:Biogeography; Ecotones; Invasion Biology; Macroecology; Spatial Conservation Planning

Biographical Information

I am a graduate of the University of Pretoria, where I obtained an MSc Zoology (2008) and PhD Zoology (2013). My PhD thesis investigated biogeographic regions and variation in species richness of alien plant species at subcontinental spatial scales, and invertebrate communities at a savanna-grassland ecotone at a smaller landscape scale. I joined the Department of Statistical Sciences at the University of Cape Town in 2014 with an NRF Innovation postdoctoral fellowship.

Research Interests

My current research focuses primarily on the application of large-scale species distribution atlases to reveal ecological patterns and processes at large spatial scales.

One component of my research addresses the incidence and degree of observation bias within the second Southern African Bird Atlas Project (, an atlasing project that relies entirely on data collected by volunteer birders across South Africa and neighbouring countries. Observation bias is a common problem in volunteer-based species atlases, and if disregarded, may lead to spurious results. An evaluation of observation bias is critical to inform end users of SABAP data (e.g. researchers and conservation planners), and to improve future efforts in atlasing.

Another component of my research investigates the response of bird communities to the various natural, semi-natural, and transformed habitats. For this I use SABAP2 data from well-sampled areas within the geographical area constituting the “Gauteng 4DY Challenge”, i.e. Gauteng and parts of the surrounding provinces. This area supports a great diversity of birds, yet also hosts a large human population and is subjected to rapid land transformation and urbanization. Ultimately, I am interested in large-scale conservation planning efforts to maximise conservation within and outside protected areas, while taking into account human development needs.


  • Van Rensburg, B. J., Hugo, S., Levin, N. & Kark, S. (2013) Are environmental transitions more prone to biological invasions? Diversity and Distributions, 19, 341–351.
  • Hugo, S., van Rensburg, B. J., van Wyk, A. E. & Steenkamp, Y. (2012) Alien phytogeographic regions of southern Africa: numerical classification, possible drivers, and regional threats. PLoS ONE, 7(5), e36269
  • Hugo, S. & van Rensburg, B.J. (2009) Alien and native birds in South Africa: patterns, processes and conservation. Biological Invasions, 11, 2291–2302.
  • Hugo, S. & van Rensburg, B.J. (2008) The maintenance of a positive spatial correlation between South African bird species richness and human population density. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 17, 611–621.