Photo: Jurene Kemp

© 2016 biological interactions

Postdoc with A.G. Ellis

Department of Botany and Zoology


biological interactions

Dr Willem Augustyn

I was born in Stellenbosch. I speak English and Afrikaans fluently, which means that I can communicate easily with the average South African citizen. I have always been fascinated by evolution, but have only recently realized that the idea of descent with modification is one of the most revolutionary philosophical breakthroughs of all time. Because I love science and the outdoors I chose to become an evolutionary ecologist. A fortunate byproduct of this decision is that I get to work with fun energetic people (naturalists). In my free time I like to botanize, run in the mountains, and to climb rock (we have excellent rock in the Western Cape). Some of my favorite places in South Africa are Namaqualand, the Cederberg, and the Hottentots Holland mountains. These places are all extremely biologically complex, and relatively pristine. These are also the places where most of my research have taken place.


I am an evolutionary ecologist interested in a broad range of topics and techniques. What interests me the most, however, is the evolution of reproductive isolation. During my PhD, which I completed in 2015, I have been fortunate to do pioneering work on a group of herbivorous insects, restio leafhoppers, that are specific to plants in the restio family. The type of questions I asked in this system were 1) What is the influence of interspecific competition on specialization, and community structure, and coexistence? 2) Which ecological and geographic processes are involved in ecological speciation? To answer these questions, I have used geographic information systems, network analyses, null modelling, visual modelling, linear modelling, and experimental approaches. Currently I am interested in the factors allowing the co-existence of biological entities across the speciation continuum (i.e. polymorphisms, ecotypes, to species). I am also interested in improving/using techniques that allow the exploration of within population trait variation and what influences it.

Current Research

Kemp J.E., Evans, D.M., Augustyn W.J., Ellis, A.G. (2017) Invariant antagonistic network structure despite high spatial and temporal turnover of interactions. Ecography, In Press.

Augustyn W.J., van der Merwe J.F., Anderson B., & Ellis A.G. (2017) Spatial turnover in host-plant availability drives host-associated divergence in a South African leafhopper (Cephalelus uncinatus). BMC Evolutionary Biology, In Press.

Augustyn W.J., Anderson B., & Ellis A.G. (2016) Experimental evidence for fundamental, and not realised, niche partitioning in a plant-herbivore community interaction network. Journal of Animal Ecology, 85, 994-1003

Augustyn W.J., Anderson B., Stiller M., & Ellis A.G. (2013) Specialised host-use and phenophase tracking in restio leafhoppers (Cicadellidae: Cephalelini) in the Cape Floristic Region. Journal of Insect Conservation, 17, 1267–1274.