Helen is a researcher and consultant with 26 years experience in aquatic ecology. She completed her MSc and PhD at UCT, and has been a researcher and project leader on several Water Research Commission-funded projects.  She was a founding member of Southern Waters, and later joined the Freshwater Consulting Group.  In 2012 she co-founded the Freshwater Research Centre.  Her passion is research and sharing her knowledge with budding researchers and students. She has experience in project management, and has supervised several Honours, Masters and PhD students.

Helen has extensive experience in aquatic ecosystem health assessments, specifically the development and validation of bioassessment tools based on aquatic macroinvertebrates.  She has been involved in the South African River Health Programme since its inception in the 1990s, and validated the SASS (South African Scoring System) as part of her MSc.  She has published several papers on the spatial and temporal variability of lotic systems, and the implications for the derivation of ecological reference conditions.  She has also been involved in the development of river health assessment in other parts of Africa, including the Okavango Delta, Botswana, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia; where she has also trained students and other biologists in assessing river health.  

Her  research has focused on the effects of water quality variables on aquatic ecosystems, most recently on water temperature and biotic responses.  She is currently leading a research project on the "Adaptability and vulnerability of aquatic biota to climate change - developing tools for assessing biological effects". 

A current project focuses on "Assessing the effect of global climate change on indigenous and alien fish in the Cape Floristic". This is being undertaken collaboratively with the South African Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) and CapeNature.

Helen has contributed to the development of national water quality guidelines for aquatic ecosystems, and the link between water quality and ecological effects continue to interest her.  She has been a water quality and macroinvertebrate specialist in several Environmental Flow Assessments.  She has published numerous reports and scientific papers.

Formal education

PhD (Freshwater Ecology, University of Cape Town)
MSc (Zoology, University of Cape Town)
BSc Honours (Zoology & Entomology, Rhodes University)
BSc (Zoology, University of Cape Town)

Professional Memberships/Accreditations

Professional Natural Scientist (Pr.Sci.Nat) in Aquatic Science - The South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions
Member - Southern African Society of Aquatic Scientists (SASAqS)
Member - Western Cape Provincial Implementation Team, River Health Programme (RHP)
Member - Western Cape Wetlands Forum
Accredited SASS5 practitioner, trainer and assessor


Ecosystem health assessments and biomonitoring, including the derivation of ecological reference conditions
Effects of water quality on aquatic ecosystems - in particular water temperature
Environmental flow assessments
Training and capacity development - including SASS training
Database design 


Director and Consultant: Freshwater Consulting Group
Research Associate: Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Research Associate: University of Cape Town


Scientific publications