Andrew McKechnie

Associate professor, department of zoology, University of Pretoria

Awarded for his work with a prestigious President's Award by the National Research Foundation, Andrew McKechnie is driven by a fascination with animals and a desire to understand them better. As an associate professor at the Department of Zoology at the University of Pretoria, this 34-yearold admits to being at his happiest studying animals in remote places � preferably a desert. McKechnie grew up on a farm in Polokwane and spent a large part of his childhood surrounded by nature. His current research focuses on the physiological and behavioural traits that shape the ways in which birds and other vertebrates interact with physical environments and the consequences of variation in these traits for their evolutionary fitness. He aims to make a significant contribution to biology and to train others to generate knowledge that will address conservation questions. � Liesl Venter

Lunch spot: Under a camelthorn tree, somewhere in the Kalahari