About the Author

Zoë Poulsen is a Doctoral student in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Cape Town undertaking conservation-focused research into restoration and rangeland ecology of Critically Endangered Overberg Renosterveld. This research is funded by South Africa’s National Research Foundation, supervised by Dr Samson Chimphango, Prof. Muthama Muasya, Prof. Timm Hoffman and Dr Pippin Anderson. The project is undertaken in collaboration with the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust, a South African non-profit working hard to conserve one of the most biodiverse and threatened habitats on earth.

Originally from the green and gently rolling landscapes of England’s West Dorset, a lifelong interest in plants and their ecology brought Zoë down to the Cape. That first life-changing visit, spent as an intern at Kirstenbosch National Botanic Gardens, was now almost fifteen years ago, more than ten of which have been spent living, working, studying and writing about life in the Mother City.

Zoë’s MSc in Botany at the UCT Plant Conservation Unit used aerial photos and ground-based repeat photography to examine temporal change in the spatial extent of afrotemperate and coastal forest in Table Mountain National Park in response to different ecological drivers. The findings of this research have been published in the South African Botanical Society’s popular journal Veld and Flora and in a special issue of the South African Journal of Botany on Biome Boundaries.


‘Notes from a Cape Town Botanist’ was born on a bench on a cold spring day at London’s Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, inspired by the prominent botanist, conservationist and author Sara Oldfield, then Secretary-General of Botanic Gardens Conservation International. The blog was started with an aim to communicate to the world in a way accessible to all about the international importance of South Africa’s Cape Floristic Region (CFR). It also reports on the conservation challenges the CFR faces and the vital work of those striving for a better understanding and to conserve it for the future.

Over the intervening years ‘Notes from a Cape Town Botanist’ has grown and blossomed, with support from its readers near and far. Its content has been read by more than 100,000 people from across the globe, published in the Cape Argus newspaper and online by City Press. It has led to interviews with the Citizen Newspaper and a live radio interview with Johannesburg’s Radio 702 about the 2015 Cape fires. Zoë writes regularly for the Botanical Society of South Africa and the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust’s blogs. She has also written guest articles for Africa Geographic and Fauna and Flora International.

When she isn’t hard at work Zoë can be found hiking the mountains and lowlands of the Cape Floristic Region, participating in various community based-conservation initiatives as well as enjoying gardening, cooking home-grown produce and environmental photography.

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Taking Action

There are many environmental organisations based in Cape Town and beyond that require the services of volunteers to undertake their work. So if you have a little time to spare please get involved.