National History Museum
 
 

Staff

Senior Specialist Museum Scientist
and Head of Department

James Brink

James S. Brink DPhil    jbrink [at] nasmus [dot] co [dot] za

In 1978 James Brink received a BA degree (Archaeology, Anthropology & Latin) and in 1980 BA Honours (Archaeozoology) from the University of Stellenbosch. He was appointed in 1983 as a junior Researcher in Archaeozoology at the National Museum. Based at the newly established Florisbad Quaternary Research Station, he studied the fossil animal remains from the new excavations at Florisbad, as well as the old fossil collections from this site. He completed this study in 1987, for which he received the degree MA (Archaeozoology) from the University of Stellenbosch and the Frank Schweitzer postgraduate student prize (Universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch). He also received study grants from the Human Sciences Research Council (now incorporated in the National Research Foundation, NRF) and from the German Foreign Exchange program (DAAD) to study at a German University. In 1987 and 1988 he completed a two-semester course at the Institut für Palaeoanatomie, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Munich, which included courses on the comparative osteology of Old World mammals, the history of domestication in the Old World, the comparative osteology of Nile fishes and an introductory course in Latin and Greek as used in scientific nomenclature. In 1992 he received the degree BA Honours in Latin from the University of the Free State, while preparing for a comparative osteological study of alcelaphine bovids and the evolution of wildebeest. Through funding received from the Centre for Science Development (CSD, now part of the NRF) he invited Prof. R. Grün (Canberra) to do a comprehensive Electron Spin Resonance / Optically Stimulated Luminescence (ESR/OSL) study of the Florisbad deposits and fossils, including the human skull. In the process a pioneering technique of non-destructive ESR dating was developed in order to date the molar associated with the human skull. This work, published in 1996, provided the temporal framework needed for studying the alcelaphine fossil record in southern Africa. In 2001, as part of this study, he worked for two months in the Palaeontology Laboratory of the National Museum of Natural History, Paris, on North African alcelaphine fossils. In 2005 he received the degree DPhil from the University of Stellenbosch for his study on the evolution of the black wildebeest (Connochaetes gnou) and modern large mammal faunas in southern Africa. James is currently expanding his interests to the comparison of the large mammal record of East Africa with that of southern Africa.  He is a NRF rated scientist, with a B3 rating.

Since March 1984 James has been in charge of the research activities at the Florisbad Quaternary Research Station. In this time he oversaw the founding of an extensive osteological reference collection and the expansion of the Quaternary fossil vertebrate collections through field work at key sites, such as Florisbad, Cornelia-Uitzoek and Erfkroon.


Principal Museum Scientist

Daryl Codron, PhD   d [dot] codron [at] nasmus [dot] co [dot] za

Daryl is an animal ecologist, with specialist expertise in stable isotope analysis and applications of this technique to ecology and palaeoecology. Based on research relying largely on stable isotope approaches, he was awarded a PhD degree from the Department of Archaeology, University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2006, for his studies on the trophic dynamics of savanna ungulates and the implications for evolutionary diversification of this group. He had earlier received an MSc degree in Quaternary Science, from UCT in 2003, for similar research on baboons as extant analogues for interpreting stable isotope patterns of early hominins. Though much of Daryl's postgraduate research was within the broader discipline of palaeoscience, his initial training was in biology. In 1998 he earned a BSc degree in Zoology and Botany from the Univeristy of Johannesburg (formerly the Rand Afrikaans University), and in 2001 earned a BSc Honours degree in Biodiversity and Conservation from the same institution. This diversity in training resulted in him being awarded several postdoctoral fellowships over the years. In 2006/07 he was appointed as postdoctoral fellow of the Florisbad Quaternary Research Department of the National Museum (the first such appointment within the National Museum), where he conducted research on the evolution of landscapes and mammalian faunas of the South African central interior through the Late Quaternary. Thereafter, he was appointed as full-time lecturer in animal ecology at the School of Biological and Conservation Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, until 2009. Following that, Daryl was awarded a Marie Curie fellowship from the European Union, to conduct experimental stable isotope research hosted at the University of Zürich (UZ), Switzerland for two years. Following successful completion of the Marie Curie fellowship, he was awarded a further two-year postdoctoral position at UZ, funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Research Unit 533 “The Biology of Sauropod Dinosaurs”.

Daryl's research interests span a variety of ecological and evolutionary sub-disciplines, including behavioural and evolutionary ecology, community ecology, and macroecology, all with implications for advancing our understanding of large mammal evolution particular within African savanna landscapes. Stable isotope analysis remains at the core of most of this research, and many of his studies focus on key issues regarding the most fundamental principles of this technique. The combination of ecological and palaeontological skills within his repertoire has made it possible for Daryl to explore novel questions about the processes driving macroevolutionary patterns observed in the South African mammal fossil record. The strengths of this skill set were well-received by his peers, and accordingly Daryl was awarded a C1 NRF rating as of January 2014.

Current research projects:

  • A conceptual model for interpreting variability in isotope niche breadths of fossil populations
  • Does C4 grass limit the diversity of intermediate-feeding ruminants in Africa?
  • Factors influencing stable isotope distributions and abundances in African savanna and grassland ecosystems
  • Life histories, ecology, and community dynamics of terrestrial vertebrates across the Permian-Triassic extinction

Daryl is a member of the Bloemfontein Palaeosystems Centre (www.palaeosystems.co.za), an inter-departmental partnership within the Museum, and including members from the University of the Free State.


Chief Research Assistant

Sharon Holt is a National Museum Staff Member in the Florisbad Quaternary Research department

Sharon Holt MSc    sholt [at] nasmus [dot] co [dot] za

Sharon Holt obtained her BA degree at the University of Pretoria in 1991 and her BA Honours (Archaeology) in 1995. She obtained her MSc degree in Archaeology at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2009. Thesis title: The faunal remains from the Makgabeng Plateau, Limpopo Province. Her career started as a Research Assistant in the Archaeology Department of the National Museum in 1992. In 2006 she was transferred to the Florisbad Quaternary Research Department, where she is currently curating the modern mammal osteological collection housed at Florisbad.


General assistants

Abel Dichakana

Abel Dichakane


Isaac Thapo

Isaac Thapo


Jacob Maine