Jemma Finch


BSc (Hons) (Natal); MSc (KwaZulu-Natal) PhD (York)

Tel: +27 (0) 33 260 6374


Discipline of Geography
School of Environmental Sciences
University of KwaZulu-Natal
Private Bag X01
South Africa

Research Interests
  • Palaeoecology of African ecosystems, particularly the Afromontane region
  • Understanding human impacts on environments, particularly vegetation
  • Disentangling human- and climatically-induced environmental changes in the recent past
  • Predictive distribution modelling
  • Conservation implications of climate change

Description of Research Activities 

My PhD research was based at the York Institute for Tropical Ecosystem Dynamics (KITE) at the University of York, and focussed on past forest dynamics and environmental changes in the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania, an area of exceptional biological importance. During previous research I applied palaeoecological techniques to understanding late Quaternary forest history along the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

For my postdoctoral research at the University of Cape Town, I investigated past environmental changes in the Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa. Current focal areas include the Maputaland Coastal Plain (in collaboration with Marc Humphries at Wits), Drakensberg, Soutpansberg and Mapungubwe.  In Maputaland, our primary aim is to reconstruct a high resolution continuous record for glacial and Holocene conditions using a c. 50,000 year record from the Mfabeni Peatland on the eastern shores of Lake St. Lucia.


Publications, Conference Presentations and Unpublished Reports (please email me to request a copy)

Finch, J.M., Marchant, R., Mustaphi, C. (in press). Ecosystem change in the South Pare Mountain bloc, Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania. The Holocene.

Meadows, M.E. and Finch, J.M. (in press). The Development of Quaternary Science in South Africa: a Physical Geography Perspective. South African Geographical Journal. doi:10.1080/03736245.2016.1208587

Strachan, K.L., Hill, T.R., Finch, J.M., Barnett, R.L., Frenzel, P. (in press). Distribution of Salt-Marsh Foraminifera in Two South African Estuaries and Application. Journal of Coastal Research.

Haberzettl, T., Baade, J., Compton, J., Daut, G., Dupont, L., Finch, J.M., Frenzel, P., Green, A., Hahn, A., Hebbeln, D., Helmschrot, J., Humphries, M., Kasper, T., Kirsten, K., Mäusbacher, R., Meadows, M., Meschner, S., Quick, Q., Schefuß, E., Wündsch, M., Zabel, M. (2014). Paleoenvironmental investigations using a combination of terrestrial and marine sediments from South Africa - The RAIN (Regional Archives for Integrated iNvestigations) approach. Zentralblatt für Geologie und PaläontologieTeil I, 2014, Heft 1: 55-73. , DOI: 10.1127/zgpI/2014/0055-0073

Botha, G., Humphries, M., Green, A., Finch, J.M. (2014). Palaeoenvironments and geomorphological evolution. In: Whitfield, A.K. (ed.), Proceedings of the St Lucia Natural Sciences Workshop: Change, connectivity and conservation in a major wetland system. Water Research Commission Report TT 582/13.

Finch, J. and Marchant, R. (2011). A palaeoecological investigation into the role of fire and human activity in the development of montane grasslands in East Africa. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 20, 109-124. DOI: 10.1007/s00334-010-0276-9

Marchant, R, Finch, J, Kinyanjui, RN, Muiruri, VM, Mumbi, CT, Platts, PJ & Rucina, SM (2010). Palaeoenvironmental perspectives for sustainable development in East Africa. Climate of the Past Discussions 6, 963-1007.

Finch, J., Leng., M.J. and Marchant, R. (2009). Late Quaternary vegetation dynamics in a biodiversity hotspot, the Uluguru Mountains of Tanzania. Quaternary Research 72(1): 111-122. DOI:10.1016/j.yqres.2009.02.005

Finch, J., and Hill, T.R. (2008).  A Late Quaternary pollen sequence from Mfabeni Peatland, South Africa: reconstructing forest history in Maputaland.  Quaternary Research 70(3): 442-450. DOI:10.1016/j.yqres.2008.07.003

Finch, J., Samways, M.J., Hill, T.R., Piper, S.E., and Taylor, S., (2006). Application of predictive distribution modelling to invertebrates: Odonata in South Africa.  Biodiversity and Conservation 15(13): 4239–4251. DOI: 10.1007/s10531-005-3577-z

Finch, J.M., Leng, M.J., Wooller, M., and Marchant, R.A. Vegetation history of a biodiversity hotspot, the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania. 5th EGU Alexander von Humboldt International Conference, January 2009, Cape Town, South Africa.

Finch, J.M., Leng, M.J., and Marchant, R.A. Vegetation history of a biodiversity hotspot: the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania.  12th Annual International Palynological Conference IPC-XII, August 2008, Bonn, Germany.

Finch, J.M., Marchant, R.A., Ahrends, A., Mumbi, C., Platts, P.J. Vegetation history of a biodiversity hotspot: the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania.  East African Society for Quaternary Research (EAQUA) Inaugural Meeting, June 2007, Kampala, Uganda.

Finch, J.M., Marchant, R.A., Ahrends, A., Mumbi, C., Platts, P.J. Vegetation history of a biodiversity hotspot: the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania.  Open Scientific Meeting of the European Pollen Database, May 2007, Europôle Méditerranéen de l’Arbois, Aix-en-Provence.

Finch, J.M., Marchant, R.A., Ahrends, A., Mumbi, C., Platts, P.J. Vegetation history of a biodiversity hotspot: the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania.  Royal Geographical Society Climate Change Research Group Postgraduate Workshop, March 2007, Leeds.

Finch, J.M., 2006. Late Quaternary Palaeoenvironments of the Mfabeni Peatland, Northern KwaZulu-Natal.  Unpublished MSc thesis. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.

Finch, J.M. A spatial analysis of the distribution of Odonata in southern Africa.  Geography Students Conference, September 2004, Hammanskraal.

Current research students

Patience Zisadza-Gandiwa - PhD

Luke Bodmann - MSc

Kirsty Spershott - MSc

Salona Reddy - MSc

Jean Baverstock - MSc

Craig Cordier - MSc

Amanda Khuzwayo - MSc

Tarryn Frankland - MSc

Past research students

Kate Strachan - MSc cum laude, PhD, Postdoc

Astika Bhugeloo - Honours, MSc

Jared Lodder - MSc

Anel Geer - MSc

Deeva Baboolal - Honours, MSc

Ntombi Ngoloyi - MSc

Mendy Shozi - MSc

Sasha Sankar - Honours

Inayeth Mustapha - Honours

Sofiah Joosab - Honours

Nasiphi Ntshanga - Honours

Sarushen Pillay - Honours

Kaveesh Roopcharan - Honours

Teegan Govindsamy - Honours

Taariq Sheik - Honours

Kirsty Spershott - Honours

Jessica van der Merwe - Honours

Khanyisa Qamata - Honours

Camelot Radloffe - Honours

Craig Cordier - Honours

Amanda Khuzwayo - Honours

Nokwanda Magwaba - Honours

Samatha Chetty - Honours

Tarryn Frankland - Honours