Prof. Alta de Vos

Associate Professor

Field of research

  • Social-ecological resilience and complexity
  • Methods and theory in social-ecological systems
  • Resilience and transformation in conservation systems
  • Sustainable use
  • Scenarios


Alta is an interdisciplinary conservation scientist, focusing on two main research areas: the resilience and transformation of conservation systems, and the development of the social-ecological research theory and methods.

In the case of the former, she uses a wide diversity of mixed- and multi-method approaches, often in transdisciplinary projects and often spatial, to better understand and direct the future of protected areas and other conservation systems, particularly focusing on non-traditional systems with diverse governance approaches and values. With her partners, she works at multiple scales to understand how we can better understand these systems in more generalized, yet still context-specific ways as to inform more fit-for-purpose policy, but also the changes and pathways that are needed to shape equitable resilience of these systems into an uncertain future.

In the case of the latter, she currently directs the Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS). PECS is a Future Earth core-project (the only one of such programmes based in the global South) that aims to integrate research on the stewardship of social–ecological systems, the services they generate, and the relationships among natural capital, human wellbeing, livelihoods, inequality, and poverty.  In this role, she actively engages in building local networks, capacity, and frameworks to address the challenges of our time by doing research for- and with-society, particularly focusing on the implications of such work for research methodology, theory, and policy.

Prior to the CST, Alta spent 8.5 years at Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape, where she taught a wide diversity of courses on to undergraduate and honours students. Here she grew to appreciate the transformative potential and powerful knowledge of young people who are able to tap into their full identities, but also the challenge for higher education to better support such connections for the young people whose ideas the world need most.

She loves maps (especially for fun), and exploring the beautiful trails of the Western Cape, and beyond (usually without consulting maps, which makes her runs longer). She also enjoy travelling, reading, walking, cooking, and spending time with friends and family.