Dr. Chantal Helm BSc MRes PhD


Chantal is a terrestrial ecologist with wide ranging interests in wildlife management, conservation, plant ecology, plant herbivore interactions and monitoring and survey techniques of wildlife. She has extensive research experience in large conservation areas in South Africa including the Kruger National Park and hence has an understanding of conservation working practices in Southern Africa. Projects she has undertaken as part of her studies include producing an ecological assessment and management plan for an 1100 ha game reserve and an investigation of habitat selection, behavioural ecology and population dynamics of two closely related wildebeest species. Both projects involved extensive fieldwork. Her doctoral studies were carried out in collaboration with academics from the Animal Ecology Research Group at the University of the Witwatersrand, the Centre for Tropical Studies and the University of Cape Town. The thesis investigates population dynamics and autecology of a keystone savannah tree specifically focussing on responses to disturbances such as herbivory and fire and includes a modelling component. The doctoral examiners indicated that the study would set a bench mark for future studies on African savannah trees and Chantal has since had four papers published in peer reviewed international journals, with a further four papers expected. She has presented the results of her research at international conferences held in various locations including South Africa, Australia and France.

Her academic studies have enabled Chantal to develop an extensive set of ecological skills including wildlife habitat assessments, plant identification, vegetation surveying, water quality monitoring and alien plant control. Chantal also has experience in statistical data analysis, population modelling and basic GIS, with proficiencies in ArcGIS, Photoshop and a variety of graphic viewing and manipulating programmes. Having been employed as a teaching assistant and lecturer during her doctoral studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, she spent a year as a Teaching Fellow at the University of Bath after completing her doctorate, teaching plant diversity, ecology and biostatistics to undergraduates.

Having worked at the University of Hertfordshire for a number of years, Chantal has moved on to the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, but continues to work with us on a number of research and teaching activities.

Recent publications

  • Helm, C.V. & Witkowski, E.T.F. (2012). Continuing decline of a keystone tree species in the Kruger National Park, South Africa. African Journal of Ecology, 51(2): 270-279. DOI.
  • Helm, C.V. & Witkowski, E.T.F. (2012). Characterising wide spatial variation in population structure of a keystone African savanna tree. Forest Ecology and Management, 263: 175-188. DOI.
  • Helm, C.V., Scott, S. & Witkowski, E.T.F. (2011). Reproductive potential and seed fate of Sclerocarya birrea subsp. caffra (marula) in the low altitude savannas of South Africa. South African Journal of Botany, 77(3): 650-674. DOI.
  • Helm, C., Wilson, G., Midgley, J., Kruger, L. & Witkowski, E.T.F. (2011). Investigating the vulnerability of an African savanna tree (Sclerocarya birrea subsp. caffra) to fire and herbivory. Austral Ecology, 36(8): 964-973. DOI.
  • Helm, C.V., Witkowski, E.T.F., Kruger, L., Hofmeyr, M., and Owen-Smith, N. (2009). Mortality and utilisation of Sclerocarya birrea subsp. caffra between 2001 and 2008 in the Kruger National Park, South Africa. South African Journal of Botany, 75(3): 475-484. DOI.
  • Helm, C.V. & Witkowski, E.T.F. (2008). What don't we know about Sclerocarya birrea subsp. caffra? South African Journal of Botany, 74(2): 387. DOI.

Link to UH profile page.

University of Hertfordshire
University of Hertfordshire, 2017.