Phoebe Barnard, Ph.D.

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I’m a highly motivated climate change ecologist, conservation biologist, sustainability strategist, leadership and science professor, and environmental planner. I’m Chief Scientific and Policy Officer for the Conservation Biology Institute, Affiliate Professor at University of Washington’s Center for Environmental Politics and Inter-disciplinary Arts and Sciences, and Honorary Research Associate of two institutes at the University of Cape Town.

I have had a wonderful career so far, with 34 years working mostly in southern Africa, spanning academia, government, international organizations and initiatives, and national research institutes. Passionate about biodiversity and climate change globally, especially in Africa and the Americas, I operate almost equally comfortably at two levels, planetary and local, with science and society as the ‘lenses’ I use to observe.

In South Africa, I held posts at the South African National Biodiversity Institute of Lead Scientist for Climate Change BioAdaptation and Head of Biodiversity Futures (the latter one of numerous programs I’ve founded and led). From 2013-2016 I was also Honorary President of BirdLife South Africa, and I remain Honorary Research Associate at the University of Cape Town, in both the African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI) and the Centre of Excellence at the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology.

On science: my main scientific interests are in the spatial and temporal responses of biodiversity and ecosystems to global change. Through 2016, I ran for 9 years a research team jointly between a university research institute and a government funded science-policy institute, to understand the vulnerability and adaptation of endemic species to complex global changes. To understand their responses, I used biogeography, population, community, behavioural and evolutionary ecology lenses, and collaborated with modellers, geneticists, and statistical ecologists.

On society: my main interests are in envisaging societal and environmental futures, in enabling powerful policy and behavioral change, and in bringing about (peaceful) tipping points for a new economy and sustainable society. Science is a key element in the sustainability transition ahead, but only really quite a small one. Far greater elements are economics, human needs and wants, perception, emotion, faith and how ordinary people make decisions in complex situations. To understand these issues in Africa, I used systems analysis, horizon scanning, trends analysis, early warning systems, citizen science, leadership studies, and complex models (in collaboration with modellers!).

My work blends strategic planning, leadership, research, teaching, publication, writing, editing, public speaking, mentorship and citizen science. I teach young scientists and implementers in spatial ecology, biodiversity conservation, land use planning, climate change, environmental policy, conflict resolution, and leadership. I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the best minds on the planet, and hope a few of their ideas and skills rubbed off.

Apart from my day job, I’m a loving parent (to Cat and Julia Barnard Simmons) and wife (to filmmaker John Bowey), a climber of active volcanoes, modest mountaineer, haphazard trail runner, community volunteer, and film co- producer. I love good music, eclectic and diverse people, beauty and diversity in nature, and yummy vegan cuisine.

Affiliate Professor, University of Washington, Bothell, School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences –

Affiliate Professor, University of Washington, Seattle, Center for Environmental Politics –

Honorary Research Associate, University of Cape Town (UCT) FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology –

Honorary Research Associate, UCT African Climate and Development Initiative –

Alliance of Leading Environmental Researchers & Thinkers page:

Film co-producer, writer, and storyteller, Transmediavision USA – and  


personal portal –