Message from the Dean


Prof Barend Erasmus (Dean)


Welcome to the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (NAS), one of Africa's largest and most diverse faculties.

The Faculty is home to more than 6 500 undergraduate and postgraduate students, larger than some local universities. We present degrees in fields ranging from the proverbial A to Z – from actuaries to zoologists, consisting of 13 departments. NAS has a track record of internationally recognised research achievements, and the Faculty hosts about 40% of the National Research Foundation (NRF)-rated researchers at UP, including more than half - seven in total - of the A-rated researchers at the University.

UP is one of the world's top universities and occupies a space in the top 1,9% of universities worldwide. We rank highly for Africa across several ranking measurement systems, considering various factors. According to Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the University has achieved new world rankings in Physical Sciences. This discipline features strongly in NAS and maintains excellent positions on the ISI Web of Science (WOS) field rankings in Plant and Animal Sciences, Agricultural Sciences, and Environment and Ecology Sciences. 

High-quality undergraduate and postgraduate education is offered, and involvement in various community projects contributes to excellence provided by the Faculty. This Faculty responds to modern workplace demands and adjusts teaching and learning practices to ensure our graduates have the skills and attitude for a fulfilling career.

In its pursuit of teaching excellence, the Faculty has embraced the University's hybrid teaching and learning model, an optimal blend of face-to-face and virtual (or online) student learning opportunities. This model provides the best of both worlds – face-to-face teaching, where it is most suitable but enriched by the wide range of virtual learning tools and products.

At NAS, we aim to answer as-yet unanswered questions and be part of a scientific community dedicated to responding to humanity's grand challenges. Research is focused, among others, on achieving food and water security in Africa, making renewable energy affordable to African populations and eliminating poverty-related diseases.

The challenges facing humanity can only be solved by teams of scientists who work together across disciplinary boundaries. These teams consist of dedicated experts in the various disciplines who are already active in the Faculty and scientists who move comfortably between disciplines in their search for new solutions to old problems. Together, we can effect positive change in the world.

More about Prof Barend Erasmus

Prof Barend Erasmus has been appointed for a second term as the Dean in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (NAS) at the University of Pretoria (UP) from 1 October 2023, following his term starting October 2019.

Prior to his appointment as Dean, he was the Director of the Global Change Institute (GCI) at the University of the Witwatersrand since 2014.

Prof Erasmus obtained the degrees PhD (Zoology), BScHons (Zoology) and BSc (Zoology) from the University of Pretoria. He has spent most of his working career at the University of the Witwatersrand. After a short postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Stellenbosch, he was appointed as a lecturer in the School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences in 2003. He was subsequently promoted to professor and the Exxaro Chair in Global Change and Sustainability.

After a short postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Stellenbosch, he was appointed as a lecturer in the School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences in 2003. He was subsequently promoted to professor and the Director of the Exxaro Chair in Global Change and Sustainability.

He has always had an interest in interdisciplinary work. His doctoral degree at the University of Pretoria was the first assessment of climate change impacts on biodiversity in South Africa, and the core paper from that study continues to be relevant in international literature.

Prof Erasmus' research interests expanded from biodiversity and climate change impacts to a more systemic approach to long-term land cover change and sustainability in rural landscapes. He is passionate about postgraduate training, particularly within the context of collaborative and interdisciplinary research programmes.

He has co-authored several strategic documents on climate change, space science and global change for the national government. He serves on advisory bodies for the Endangered Wildlife Trust, the National Business Initiative and the African Climate Leadership Programme. Together with colleagues from the Global Change Institute, he recently co-authored an international report commissioned by the United Nations on the state of global land degradation and restoration. 

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