Emeritus Professor George M. Branch

Rocky shore, estuarine & coastal ecology; fisheries management & policy; impacts of mining; marine protected areas 
Phone: 021 712 4768




I began my career with a focus on the ecology of limpets, which are more diverse and do more extraordinary things than anywhere else in the world. That passion developed into a broader exploration of rocky-shore ecology, competition, predation and other forms of interactions, and I shifted from an observational approach to experimental field work. The impact of alien species such as the blue mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis and the crab Carcinus maenas formed part of the focus of my postgraduate students. My interests then extended to include estuarine ecology, and particularly the remarkable role that sandprawns and mudprawns play. Sandprawns are known as 'bioturbators' because they turn over prodigious quantities of sediment, and powerfully influence the rest of the community, from bacteria to diatoms and other invertebrates. I have enjoyed a profitable and companionable collaboration with Deena Pillay on these amazing animals, including a monographic review of their ecology. From this ecological grounding, I became involved with research on marine invertebrates and algae that are of commercial importance, or are harvested as a source of food by recreational and subsistence fishers, including rock lobsters, abalone, urchins, mussels and seaweeds. This led to involvement with the development of a new fisheries policy and the development of Marine Protected Areas.

I am now nominally 'retired', which means I don't get paid my old professorial salary, but I am still actively involved with research and the supervision of postgraduate students. One of my current students is Zanne Zeeman, doing a PhD on the effects of a newly-arrived alien mussel, Semimytilus algosus, which probably arrived here from Chile via Namibia. Another is Paula de Coita, who is exploring the genetics of false limpets - Siphonaria species - including a rare and endangered species Siphonaria compressa that lives on the blades of eelgrass in Langebaan and Knysna lagoons.

In my 'retirement' I have also become very involved in giving public educational talks on evolution, and with running training course for teachers who are grappling with teaching evolution at school. Two popular artcles I wrote have been widely used by teachers and scholars wanting to gain a background and tryng to reconcile evolution with their religious faiths:

Branch G.M. 2009. Teaching and learning about evolution: Pt 1. The background. Quest 5(2): 44-48.

Branch, G.M. 2009. Teaching and learning about evolution: Pt 2. Dealing with the controversy. Quest 5(3): 42-47.

I have been graced with several awards, including a Fellowship of the University of Cape Town, a Distinguished Teachers Award, a Fellowship of the Royal Society of South Africa, the Gold Medal of the Zoological Society of Southern Africa, the Gilchrist Gold Medal for contributions to marine science, the International Temperate Reefs Award for Lifetime Contributions to Marine Science, and an Andrew Mellon Mentoring Fellowship.


Branch, G.M., Griffiths, C.L., Branch, M.L., & Beckley, L.E. 2010. Two Oceans. A Guide to the Marine Life of southern Africa. Struik Nature, Cape Town; 456 pp.

Branch, G.M., Griffiths, C.L., Branch, M.L., & Beckley, L.E. 2010. Two Oceans. A Guide to the Marine Life of southern Africa. Struik Nature, Cape Town; 456 pp.

My wife Margo and I, in collaboration with Charles Griffiths and Lynnath Beckley, recently produced a revision of the book Two Oceans, which is the only book available the allows identification of the full span of marine life, including algae, invertebrates, fish, birds, reptiles and mammals. This revision involved a complete re-write, the addition of a further 522 species, and a total make-over of the photographs, so that the book now covers 1900 species. Like my previous book Living Shores, Two Oceans was awarded the UCT book award.


221. Pfaff, M.C., Hiebenthal, C., Molis. M., Branch, G. M., Wahl, M. 2010. Patterns of diversity along an experimental gradient of disturbance and productivity – the confounding effects of the Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis. Afr. J. Mar. Sci. 32: 127-135.

222. Reaugh, K.E., G.M. Branch, J.M. Harris, C.D. McQuaid, B. Currie, A.  Dye, B. Robertson. 2010. Patterns of mussel recruitment in southern Africa: a caution about using artificial substrata to approximate natural recruitment. Marine Biology 157: 2177-2185.

223. Rius, M., Branch, G.M., Griffiths, C.L. & X. Turon. 2010. Larval settlement behaviour of six gregarious ascidians in relation to adult distribution. Marine Ecology Progress Series 418: 151-163.

224. Blamey, L.K., Branch G.M., and Reaugh-Flower, K.E. 2010. Temporal changes in kelp forest benthic communities following an invasion by the rock lobster Jasus lalandii. Afr. J. Mar. Sci. 32: 481-490.

225. Groeneveld, J.C., Greengrass, C.L., van Zyl, D.L and G.M. Branch. 2010. Settlement patterns, size and growth of puerulus and juvenile rock lobster Jasus lalandii at an oyster farm in Saldanha Bay, South Africa. African Journal of Marine Science 32: 501-510.

226. Pillay, D., Branch, G.M., Griffiths, C.L., Williams, C., Prinsloo, A. 2010. Vanishing meadows of the seagrass Zostera capensis in a South African marine reserve and its possible consequences for intertidal invertebrates and waders: Marine Ecology Progress Series. 415: 35-48. DOI: 10.3354/meps08733.

227. Pillay, D., Branch, G.M., Dawson, J., Henry, D., 2010. Contrasting effects of ecosystem engineering by the cordgrass Spartina alterniflora and the sandprawn Callianassa kraussi in a marine dominated lagoon. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 47: 797-801.

228. Pfaff MC, Branch GM, Wieters EA, Branch RA, Broitman BR, 2011. Upwelling intensity and wave exposure determine recruitment of intertidal mussels and barnacles in the Southern Benguela upwelling region. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 425: 141-152.

229. Pillay, D, & G.M. Branch 2011. Bioengineering effects of burrowing thalassinidean prawns on marine soft-bottom ecosystems. Oceanography and Marine Biology: an Annual Review 49: 137-192.

230. Haley, C.N., Blamey, L.K., Atkinson, L.J., Branch, G.M. 2011. Dietary change of the rock lobster Jasus lalandii after an 'invasive' geographic shift: effects of size, density and food availability. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 93: 160-170.

231. Reaugh-Flower, K.E., G.M. Branch, J.M. Harris, C.D. McQuaid, B.  Currie, A. Dye and B. Robertson. 2011. Scale-dependent patterns and processes of intertidal mussel recruitment around the coast of southern Africa. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 434: 101-119.

232. Zeeman, Z., Branch, G.M., Peschak, T.P., Pillay, D. 2012. Assessing the ecosystem effects of the abalone Haliotis midae from its diet and foraging behaviour. Afr. J. Mar. Sci. (in press).

234. Currie, J.C., Sink, K.J., Le Noury, P., Branch, G.M. 2012. Comparing fish communities in sanctuaries, partly protected areas and open-access reefs in south-east Africa. Afr. J. Mar. Sci. (in press)

234. Blamey, L.K., Plagányi É.E., Branch, G.M. 2012. Modelling a regime shift in a kelp-forest ecosystem caused by a lobster range-expansion. Bull. Mar. Sci. (in press).

235. Hoffman, V.M, Pfaff, M.C., Branch, G.M. 2012. Spatio-temporal patterns of larval supply and settlement of intertidal invertebrates reflect a combination of passive transport and larval behaviour. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. (in press)

236. Ryan, P.J., Branch, G.M. 2012. The November 2011 irruption of buoy barnacles Dosima fascicularis in the Western Cape, South Africa. Afr. J. Mar. Sci. (in press)