My main interest is nutrient cycling and drivers in aboveground-belowground communities, and what this means for ecosystem functioning and global change. I am a research fellow at Conservation International (CI), a research associate at the University of Cape Town, and led the action research portfolio at CI in South Africa between 2015 and 2022. Recent contributions to the generation of knowledge include biogeochemical modelling of carbon sequestration in relation to grazing and fire management of native vegetation (Hawkins et al 2021). Modelling work has been contingent on understanding of plant-soil-microbe interactions (Hawkins et al 2000; Venter et al 2016) including on croplands, and how herbaceous versus woody vegetation and fire determine litter quality and microbial activity and thus soil carbon (Vermeire et al 2021) and fauna (Thoresen et al 2021). Creation of the first high-resolution soil organic carbon map as well as a trend map and drivers (Venter et al 2021) are being used to inform climate resilient land use in South African biomes. My knowledge of the agricultural sector, including resource-poor rural communities, has been used to improve practices (Hawkins et al 2022; Venter et al 2019), challenge dogma (Hawkins 2017; Hawkins et al 2022b) and inform initiatives for climate resilient rangelands (Venter et al 2021). Due to my affiliations, I can conduct both basic and research for impact. Peer-reviewed research findings can find immediate application in standards or guidelines for recommended sustainable land use practices (e.g., guidelines for commercial proteas production, rooibos tea, livestock farming) or policy briefs (Muller et al 2020). My doctoral and postdoctoral work explored nutrient and water relations including in specialized roots and root symbioses (Cramer et al 2009; Hawkins et al 2008; Hawkins et al 2000). I have guest lectured at Hohenheim University, Germany, and Universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch. My future research vision is to understand how ecosystem drivers such as fire and herbivory effect soil and other ecological processes in the face of global change.
Google scholar link: https://scholar.google.com/citations?hl=en&user=QArZRgYAAAAJ