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Extraordinary lecturer, University of Pretoria

Dr Izak Smit is a Senior Scientist with South African National Parks (SANParks), where he has been employed since 2005. Izak is affiliated with the Centre for African Ecology at the University of the Witwatersrand, is an extraordinary lecturer at the Department of Zoology and Entomology at the University of Pretoria and a Research Affiliate with Nelson Mandela University.

He obtained a PhD (Geography) from Cambridge University in 2010, after completing a MPhil (GIS & Remote Sensing) from the same university, an MSc (Environmental Protection and Management) from Edinburgh University and a BSc (Ecology and Mathematical Statistics) and BSc (Hons) (Environmental Analysis and Management) from the University of Pretoria, supplemented by selected BSc (Hons) (GIS) courses from Stellenbosch University.

Izak is a conservation and protected areas scientist, and takes an applied approach towards his research. As a scientist in a conservation agency, he is aware of the importance of relevant, practical and scientifically robust research for informing management of conservation areas. As such he sometimes describes his job as a “translator” – translating management concerns into research frameworks and questions, and translating research results into management implications and actions.

Izak is particularly interested in studying large-scale spatio-temporal ecological patterns and the underlying causes and effects thereof, and whether the drivers of these patterns are natural or management induced. This approach aims at providing robust science which can be used to inform park management. Increasingly Izak is also exploring social-ecological systems as conservation without considering humans’ relationship, both positive and negative, with nature is unlikely to succeed in the long run.

He enjoys working locally in national parks, but connecting internationally, and has worked with and published his research with a range of scientists from more than ten countries. He serves on the editorial board of two international peer reviewed conservation and ecology journals (Journal of Applied Ecology and Conservation Science and Practice).


  • 2005–present
    Senior scientist, South African National Parks
  • 2021–present
    Extraordinary lecturer, University of Pretoria
  • 2014–present
    Honorary senior research fellow , University of the Witwatersrand
  • 2022–present
    Research Affiliate, Nelson Mandela University


  • 2010 
    University of Cambridge, PhD
  • 2003 
    University of Cambridge, MPhil (GIS and Remote Sensing)
  • 1999 
    University of Edinburgh, MSc (Environmental Protection and Management)
  • 1997 
    University of Pretoria, BSc (Hons) (Environmental Analysis and Management)
  • 1996 
    University of Pretoria, BSc (Ecology and Mathematical Statistics)

Professional Memberships

  • Editorial Board Member, Journal of Applied Ecology
  • Editorial Board Member, Conservation Science and Practice