ABOUT US

Meet our Council  

2023 – 2024

Chair of Council: Kyra Lunderstedt

Kyra is a qualified environmental scientist, who is passionate about the Subtropical Thicket Biome, which she became interested in through her studies and past restoration research work. She has an MSc in Environmental Science from Rhodes University and is currently working in the project management unit to a large Global Environment Facility-funded project at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The project operates across four South African landscapes to enhance the adoption of Sustainable Land Management in support of the green economy, improved livelihoods and enhanced knowledge.

Kyra is passionate about and energised by ecosystems and enjoys identifying and drawing both plant and bird species. As an artist, Kyra enjoys using her creative skill to enhance the presentation of information that bridges the gap between science and communication.

More about Kyra

In her spare time, Kyra is also a CREW member and a committee member of the Thicket Forum. Her interests are in landscape ecology, land cover change, land degradation, social-ecological systems and knowledge management. She has served in her current role with the UNDP since 2019. Prior to this, she worked in two roles with the Rhodes Restoration Research Group as a GIS and Knowledge Manager for the Tsitsa Project, and as a researcher on thicket-related work. In her role, she co-authored the Subtropical Thicket Research and Praxis Strategy and in earlier years worked mapping illegal deforestation and conducted carbon and biodiversity baselines for a long-term thicket monitoring project. Kyra has also worked as an independent consultant, contributing to specialist botanical assessments of EIAs for citrus and wind farms in the Eastern Cape.

She is well travelled, and spent time exploring Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, working for a river expedition tour group. Here her interest in the natural world and people’s relationship with their environment was piqued.  

Treasurer: Murray Barnetson

Murray was elected to the BotSoc Council in 2021 as Treasurer. He has 25 years of experience providing strategic, fiscal and operations leadership – often in challenging environments. He obtained his Bachelor of Accounting Science, followed by his Honours, also in Accounting Science, from the University of South Africa. He is a registered Chartered Accountant with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants. 

Murray’s love for the outdoors, including gardening and mountain biking brought him closer to the Botanical Society, and he joined as member in 2020.

More about Murray

Murray is the co-owner of Part Time FD and DoughGetters Accounting. He provides part-time financial director services and uses his strategic abilities and love of technology to design and implement financial systems and business strategies for clients, a role he has undertaken since 2011.

Prior to this, he served as Financial Director of Strategic Insurance Systems, an insurance underwriter, and before that he was Group Financial Director of the X-PLOR Group, a subsidiary of the Dimension Data Group, where he was based in the United Kingdom. X-PLOR provided network testing and revenue assurance solutions to clients such as O2, Orange, Vodacom and MTN.

Between the mid 1990s and 2000, he represented Country Escapes Premium Leisure in South Africa as Group Financial Manager, and moving to London in 1999, he joined Delta UK Land Developments PLC as Director of Finance.

Murray earned the leadership position of Bombardier in the Anti-Aircraft Corp during his national service. He is also a member of MENSA.

He brings a wealth of financial and general business experience to the BotSoc team.

Council Members

Roland Vorwerk

Roland is a Biodiversity Economy Specialist with experience in developing policy and implementing programmes in the wildlife economy and ecotourism sectors in South Africa and across the southern African region. He is also proficient in developing concepts and proposals to mobilise resources for a broad range of programmes across the biodiversity sector, and is a skilled facilitator with stakeholders throughout the biodiversity economy value chain, including civil society organisations, public sector, business and community organisations.

More about Roland

Previously, Roland was the marketing manager of Boundless Southern Africa for 12 years, raising awareness about southern Africa’s Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs). During this time he was based in Pretoria at the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment. In the course of his work, Roland developed close working relationships with stakeholders across the region while implementing innovative initiatives to promote tourism to these Transfrontier destinations. He has worked in a variety of tourism related fields for more than 20 years – as a tourist guide, developing tourism products in rural communities and working on several destination marketing initiatives.

Roland’s current focus is on building greater resilience in conservation landscapes by supporting initiatives that achieve inclusive rural economic development outcomes whilst securing the natural capital of these landscapes. Recent assignments have included leading efforts to develop a national Wildlife Economy Certification Scheme in South Africa, leading a team to develop a global programme on ‘Strengthening the Wild Biodiversity Economy’ commissioned by UNEP, contributing to the development of the new SADC TFCA Programme (2023-2033), and developing and marketing the Garden Route and Klein Karoo as an avitourism destination with BirdLife South Africa.

Hedwig Slabig

Hedwig is no stranger to BotSoc’s Council. She served on Council from 2019-2021. She has also served on the West Coast Branch of BotSoc for many years, including as Vice-Chairperson and Chairperson (a position she has held since 2018). She also serves on the West Coast Biosphere Reserve Board, and is closely involved with tourism on the West Coast. 

Hedwig has always had a love of plants, studying Botany and Zoology as part of her BA degree (BA Fine Art) at the University of Cape Town. Here she majored in printmaking and book design. 

More about Hedwig

She moved to a 20-hectare stretch of untouched Strandveld in 1993, where she started and managed Die Winkel op Paternoster, and later the Voorstrandt Restaurant in Paternoster.

During the course of her career, she was involved with the veld food and medicinal plant garden at the Hout Bay Museum. She also worked with Dr Renata Coetzee in her work with Veld Food research and recipe development into the food culture of the KhoinKhoin, and her books, ‘Koekamakranka’ and ‘A Feast from Nature’.

She also remains passionately involved with the food garden at the ‘Kinder Foerdern Zukunft Stiften’, a German non-profit organisation working with local children after school hours.

 

Kathleen Smart

Kathleen was newly appointed to BotSoc’s Council in 2023. Her interests lie in understanding and monitoring the fluxes and soil-plant-atmosphere feedbacks within social-ecological systems, and how these insights are applicable within sustainable management and restoration approaches. She also loves data, and is passionate about sharing this love with students.

She is currently employed as a Landscape Scientist, Biogeochemistry in the Expanded Freshwater and Terrestrial Environmental Observation Network (EFTEON), hosted by SAEON. 

More about Kathleen

Kathleen also currently holds a Post-Doctoral position at Rhodes University in Makhanda, where she is project lead on a research project looking at water use efficiency of Cannabis sativa in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. She has also hosted the Rhodes Restoration Research Group, of the Department of Environmental Science, which undertook research and monitoring of Thicket vegetation.

She was awarded her PhD in 2016 from the University of Witwatersrand, completing her research into the role of vegetation in regional climate regulation feedback processes.

Other past positions include course coordinator for the Masters in Environmental Science and Interdisciplinary Global Change Studies Programme at Wits University; as well as consultant for the IUCN Climate Change Specialist group since 2015. And she served as editor and organiser of the Assessment of South African Elephant Management in 2007/08.

Frank Webb

Frank has served as Treasurer & then Chair of the BotSoc Lowveld Branch, since 2010. He served on BotSoc Council in 2013-14 and again 2021-22 . He graduated with a BComm degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and attended a Programme for Management Development course at Harvard Business School in Boston, USA.

Frank’s love of nature is clear through his involvement and support of nature-based organisations. Aside from his involvement in BotSoc he has also served as Treasurer and Chair of BirdLife Lowveld from 2003 until February 2022.

More about Frank

Frank worked for two manufacturing factories involved in Manganese beneficiation into pure Manganese-based products. While he started as accountant, he quickly progressed through the ranks to Commercial Director responsible for Accounting; Sales and Marketing in Asia; Supply Chain Management, and Human Resources. He ended his service as the Managing Director of their International Marketing company based in the UK before retiring in 2003.

Frank has always been a committee person serving primarily as either Chair or Treasurer of organisations that allowed him to enjoy his hobbies. Throughout his adult life, he has been very involved in sports clubs, including tennis and yachting, as well as service organisations such as LIONS and JAYCEES. He has also served on parent teacher associations and governing bodies of the schools his children attended, as well as on church organisations within the Methodist Church. He is a widely experienced committee person.

Rob Soutter

Although he worked as an environmental journalist for many years, Rob Soutter is best known from his incredible work and legacy at WWF South Africa. He joined the conservation NGO in 1983 as Conservation Director. And in 1991 Rob moved to Switzerland, to the headquarters of WWF, where he led a major revision of WWF’s global governance.

Rob also became more involved with the fundraising side: He ran a successful two-year CHF 25 million major donor initiative. And in 1998 through his funding drive using high-level events, protected area gains in over 70 countries were secured.

More about Rob

Rob’s other interests lie in the education sector. Working with his team, he produced the We Care set of lessons, introducing environmental issues into South African middle schools’ syllabuses. He also launched EnviroFacts, a series of factsheets on conservation and environmental issues produced with a consortium of South African NGOs and government agencies.

And he has even gone back to his journalism roots, editing the quarterly newspaper Our Living World published in South African weekend newspapers for several years. While Rob retired from WWF in 2016, he now continues to work as a consultant, contributing to NGO development.

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