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Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences

Celebrating a century of Life Sciences Teaching and Research

The Departments of Botany and Zoology of the University of the Witwatersrand were founded in 1917 as part of the South African School of Mines and Technology. At that time their main function was to provide instruction for thirty eight students of medicine and dentistry. Today, we are known as the School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences (APES). In our 100 year history we have taught tens of thousands of students, many who have gone on to become leaders in climate change, conservation, journalism, tourism, and education and medicine; in addition, more than 12,500 first year medical students have been taught by our staff (including Sydney Brenner, the 2002 Nobel prize winner in Physiology or Medicine). Read more about the history of the School here.

Teaching in the School

The Biology of a Changing World: Conserving African Biodiversity

Our studies focus at the level of living things and their interaction with the environment. Areas of specialisation include savannas, grasslands and aquatic biology, focusing on biodiversity, sustainable resources and range limitation, ecology and the behaviour of a diverse range of animals, biocontrol, conservation, restoration, ecophysiology, systematics & taxonomy, and evolutionary biology.

Courses have been structured so that important basic knowledge can be retained while having time to explore new and relevant fields. Training involves both fieldwork and laboratory skills. 

Photographic competition

As part of our 100-year anniversary celebrations, the School ran a photography competition for students and staff. The overall winner was PhD student Jason Donaldson (see one of his images in the night shot banner at the top of this page). Photographs from the 259 entries have been used throughout the APES website.

Brown backed tree frog copyright Shivan Parusnath

Brown backed tree frog

Wild hibiscus flower copyright Hiral Naik

Wild hibiscus flower

Marine life at night copyright Sipho Matjebe

Marine Life at night

longhorn-beetle copyright Wade Stanton Jones

Longhorn beetle

Spiral aloe copyright Bevan Keith Dell

Spiral Aloe

Gecko copyright Shivan Parusnath


Blue swallowtail butterfly copyright Wesley Hattingh

Blue Swallowtail butterfly

Plant art copyright Dyani Jeram

Plant art

Spotted Hyena cub copyright Lindy Wolhuter

Spotted Hyena cub

African Grass Owl chicks copyright Tyrone Brent

African Grass Owl chicks

Pied Kingfisher copyright Shana Sequeira

Pied Kingfisher

Yellow Mongoose copyright Ashadee Kay Miller

Yellow Mongoose