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Robertson, Hamish Gibson (1959-)

Formerly Director Natural History Collections, followed by Director Research and Exhibitions, at Iziko Museums of South Africa (now retired). He is an entomologist, specialising in ants, but with a broad interest in biodiversity as a whole.

Hamish Robertson, Fish River Canyon

Hamish Robertson, Fish River Canyon, Namibia, April 2011.


Date  Age Events
23 April 1959 0 Born in Claremont, Cape Town to Marian Joy Sedgwick Robertson (née Spilhaus) and James MacIntosh Robertson; the middle of three sons (eldest brother Ian Spilhaus Robertson and youngest brother Graham Whiting Robertson).
1965-71 5-12  Educated at Grove Primary School, Claremont, Cape Peninsula.
1970 11 Became a keen bird watcher. Until the end of high school, spent many hours over the weekends and holidays bird watching, the favourite haunt being the Strandfontein Sewerage Works in the Cape Peninsula!
1972-1976 12-17 Educated at Westerford High School, Rondebosch, Cape Peninsula.
1977-1979 17-20 Studied for B.Sc (majoring in Zoology) at University of Cape Town.
1980 20-21 Did Honours in Zoology at University of Cape Town. During this year switched major interest from birds to insects.
1981-January 1985 21-25 Started M.Sc. converted to Ph.D. in Entomology at Rhodes University (supervisor Professor V.C. Moran). Title of thesis was: "The ecology of Cactoblastis cactorum (Berg) (Lepidoptera: Phycitidae) in relation to its effectiveness as a biological control agent of prickly pear and jointed cactus in South Africa". Ants were important predators of the eggs and other life stages of C. cactorum and their systematics, ecology and biology became a major sphere of research after this. In 1981 and 1982 also did the two undergraduate courses in Entomology.
21 January 1984   Married Rosalind ('Lindy') Nina Burnham King, a social worker, in Cape Town.
1985-1986  25-27 Temporary Junior Lecturer in Entomology at Rhodes University.
1987-1988 27-29 Took up two-year Post-doctoral Fellowship at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
1989- 29-34 Head of Entomology Department at South African Museum.
4 October 1989 30 Birth of son David Alexander Robertson.
1 Nov 1993-present. 34- Appointed Head of Life Sciences Division at South African (the Entomology, Marine Biology and Terrestrial Vertebrate Departments were combined into this division).
2 Nov 1993 34 Birth of son Duncan James Robertson.
2003-Sep 2016 44-57 Director Natural History Collections, Iziko Museums of South Africa.
Sep 2016-Mar 2018 57-58 Director Research and Exhibitions, Iziko Museums of South Africa.
Mar 2018-present 58 Consultant, providing specialised services to museums. Interest in wildlife photography and videography - see NatureObserved Youtube channel. Has a research interest in biotic interactions between organisms and the nature and principles of crossover between different systems in general (people, groups, species, biota, etc.).

Specimens collected

Almost all specimens are housed in the Iziko South African Museum.

Peer-reviewed publications

Robertson, H.G. & Johnson, P.G. 1979. First record of Greater and Lesser Flamingos breeding in Botswana. Botswana Notes and Records 11: 115-119.
Cooper, J., Robertson, H.G. & Shaughnessy, P.D. 1980. Waders (Charadrii) and other coastal birds of the Diamond Coast and the islands off South West Africa. Madoqua 12: 51-57.
Robertson, H.G. 1981a. Group foraging and diurnal activity of Blacknecked Grebes at sea. Ostrich 52: 248-250.
Robertson, H.G. 1981b. Annual summer and winter fluctuations of Palaearctic and resident waders (Charadrii) at Langebaan Lagoon, South Africa, 1975-1979. Proceedings of the Symposium on the Birds of the Sea and Shore (Ed. J. Cooper). African Seabird Group, Cape Town.
Robertson, H.G. & Wooller, R.D. 1981. Seasonal decrease in the clutch size of Hartlaub's Gulls Larus hartlaubii at Strandfontein in 1978. Cormorant 9: 23-26.
Daneel, A.B.C. & Robertson, H.G. 1982. Two previously undocumented breeding records of the Greater Flamingo in the Orange Free State. Ostrich 53: 51-52.
Robertson, H.G., Nicolson, S.W. & Louw, G.N. 1982. Osmoregulation and temperature effects on water loss and oxygen consumption in two species of African scorpion. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology 71A: 605-609.
Robertson, H.G. 1985. Egg predation by ants as a partial explanation of the difference in the performance of Cactoblastis cactorum on cactus weeds in South Africa and Australia. Proceedings of the VI International Symposium on the Biological Control of Weeds, 19-25 August 1984, Vancouver, Canada (ed. E.S. Delfosse), pp. 83-88.
Robertson, H.G. 1987. Oviposition site selection in Cactoblastis cactorum (Lepidoptera): constraints and compromises. Oecologia 73: 601-608.
Robertson, H.G. 1988. Spatial and temporal patterns of predation by ants on eggs of Cactoblastis cactorum. Ecological Entomology 13: 207-214.
Compton, S.G. & Robertson, H.G. 1988. Complex interactions between mutualisms: ants tending homopterans protect fig seeds and pollinators. Ecology 69: 1302-1305.
Robertson, H.G. 1989. Seasonal temperature effects on fecundity of Cactoblastis cactorum (Berg) (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae): differences between South Africa and Australia. Journal of the Entomological Society of Southern Africa 52: 71-80.
Robertson, H.G. & Hoffmann, J.H. 1989. Mortality and life-tables of Cactoblastis cactorum (Berg) (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) compared on two host-plant species. Bulletin of Entomological Research 79: 7-17.
Robertson, H.G. & Villet, M.H. 1989. Colony foundation in the ant Carebara vidua: the dispelling of a myth. South African Journal of Science 85: 121-122.
Robertson, H.G. & Villet, M. 1989. Mating behaviour in three species of myrmicine ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Journal of Natural History 23: 767-773.
Villet, M.H., Crewe, R.M. & Robertson, H.G. 1989. Mating behaviour and dispersal in Paltothyreus tarsatus Fabr. (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Journal of Insect Behavior 2: 413-418.
Ware, A.B., Compton, S.G. & Robertson, H.G. 1990. Gamergate reproduction in the ant Streblognathus aethiopicus Smith (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Ponerinae). Insectes Sociaux 37: 189-199.
Jones, T.H., Blum, M.S. & Robertson, H.G. 1990. Novel dialkylpiperidines in the venom of the ant Monomorium delagoense. Journal of Natural Products 53: 429-435.
Robertson, H.G., Crewe, R.M. & Zachariades, C. 1990. Unravelling the Camponotus fulvopilosus species complex (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Southern Africa. In: Social Insects and the Environment - Proceedings of the 11th International Congress of IUSSI, 1990 (eds G.K. Veeresh, B. Mallik and C.A. Viraktamath). Oxford and IBH Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, pp. 327-328.
Prins, A.J., Robertson, H.G. & Prins, A. 1990. Pest ants in urban and agricultural areas of southern Africa. In: Applied myrmecology: a world perspective (ed. R.K. Vander Meer), Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, pp. 25-33.
Compton, S.G. & Robertson, H.G. 1991. Effect of ant-homopteran systems on fig-figwasp interactions. In: Ant - Plant Interactions (eds C.R. Huxley and D.F. Cutler). Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 120-130.
Willis, C.K., Skinner, J.D. & Robertson, H.G. 1992. Abundance of ants and termites in the False Karoo and their importance in the diet of the aardvark Orycteropus afer. African Journal of Ecology 30: 322-334.
Robertson, H.G. 1995. Sperm transfer in the ant Carebara vidua F. Smith (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Insectes Sociaux 42: 411-418.
Robertson, H.G. & Zachariades, C. 1997. Revision of the Camponotus fulvopilosus (De Geer) species-group (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). African Entomology 5: 1-18.
Fisher, B.L. & Robertson, H.G. 1999. Silk production by adults of the wood boring ant Melissotarsus emeryi (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Insectes Sociaux 46: 78-83.
Robertson, H.G. 1999. Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of Mkomazi. In: Mkomazi: the Ecology, Biodiversity and Conservation of a Tanzanian Savanna (Eds M.J. Coe, N.C. McWilliam, G.N. Stone and M.J. Packer). Royal Geographical Society (with The Institute of British Geographers), London, pp. 321-336.
Tshiguvho, T.E., Dean, W.R.J. & Robertson, H.G. 1999. Conservation value of road verges in the semi-arid Karoo, South Africa: ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) as bio-indicators. Biodiversity and Conservation 8: 1683-1695.
Villet, M.H., McKitterick, L., Cook, A. & Robertson, H.G. 1999. Systematic status of Plectroctena mandibularis Smith and P. conjugata Santschi (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Ponerini). African Entomology 7: 277-284.
Robertson, H.G. 2000a. Afrotropical ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): taxonomic progress and estimation of species richness. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 9: 71-84.
Robertson, H.G. 2000b. Formicidae (Hymenoptera: Vespoidea). In: Dâures - Biodiversity of the Brandberg Massif, Namibia (eds A.H. Kirk-Spriggs & E. Marais). Cimbebasia Memoir 9: 371-382.
Garraffo, H.M., Spande, T.F., Jain, P., Kaneko, T., Jones, T.H., Blum, M.S., Musthak Ali, T.M., Snelling, R.R., Isbell, L.A., Robertson, H.G. AND Daly, J.W. 2001. Ammonia chemical ionization tandem spectrometry in structural determination of alkaloids. II. Tetraponerines from pseudomyrmecine ants. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 15: 1409-1415.
Ratsirarson, H., Robertson, H.G., Picker, M.D. & Van Noort, S. 2002. Indigenous forests versus exotic eucalypt and pine plantations: a comparison of leaf-litter invertebrate communities. African Entomology 10: 93-99.
Parr, C.L., Bond, W.J. & Robertson, H.G. 2002. A preliminary study of the effect of fire on ants (Formicidae) in a South African savanna. African Entomology 10: 101-111.
Fisher, B.L. & Robertson, H.G. 2002. Comparison and origin of forest and grassland ant assemblages in the high plateau of Madagascar (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Biotropica 34: 155-167.
Robertson, H.G. 2002a. Comparison of leaf litter ant communities in woodlands, lowland forests and montane forests of north-eastern Tanzania. Biodiversity and Conservation 11: 1637-1652.
Robertson, H.G. 2002b. Revision of the ant genus Streblognathus (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Ponerinae). Zootaxa 97: 1-16.
Parr, C.L., Robertson, H.G. & Chown, S.L. 2003. Apomyrminae and Aenictogitoninae: two new subfamilies of ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) for southern Africa. African Entomology 11: 128-129.
Jones, T.H., Zottig, V.E., Robertson, H.G. & Snelling, R.R. 2003. The venom alkaloids from some African Monomorium species. Journal of Chemical Ecology 29: 2721-2727.
Parr, C.L., Robertson, H.G., Biggs, H.C. & Chown, S.L. 2004. Response of African savanna ants to long-term fire regimes. Journal of Applied Ecology 41: 630–642.
van Hamburg, H., Andersen, A.N., Meyer, W.J. and Robertson, H.G. 2004. Ant Community Development on Rehabilitated Ash Dams in the South African Highveld. Restoration Ecology 12(4): 552-558.
Netshilaphala, N.M., Milton, S.J. & Robertson, H.G. 2005. Response of an ant assemblage to mining on the arid Namaqualand coast, South Africa. African Entomology 13: 162-167.
Botes, A., McGeoch, M.A., Robertson, H.G., van Niekerk, A., Davids, H.P. and Chown, S.L. 2006. Ants, altitude and change in the northern Cape Floristic Region. Journal of Biogeography 33: 71–90.
Grundlingh, M.L., von St Ange, U.B., Bolton, J.J., Bursey, M., Compagno, L., Cooper, R., Drapeau, L., Griffiths, C.L., bel Hassen, M., Herbert, D.G., Kirkman, S., Ohland, D., Robertson, H.G., Trinder-Smith, T., van der Westhuysen, J., Verheye, H.M., Coetzer, W. & Wilke, C. 2007. AfroOBIS: a marine biogeographic information system for sub-Saharan Africa. South African Journal of Science 103: 91-93.
Turpie, J.K., O’Connor, T., Mills, A., Robertson, H. 2007. The ecological and economic consequences of changing land use in the southern Drakensberg grasslands, South Africa. South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences 10: 423-441.
Edge, D.A., Robertson, H.G. & van Hamburg, H. 2008. Ant assemblages at three potential breeding sites for the Brenton blue butterfly, Orachrysops niobe (Trimen). African Entomology 16(2): 253–262.
Mbanyana, N. & Robertson, H.G. 2008. Review of the ant genus Nesomyrmex (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Myrmicinae) in southern Africa. African Natural History 4: 35-55.

Other publications

Robertson, H.G. 1990. Book review: Insect Development Photoperiodic and Temperature Control. South African Journal of Zoology 25: 89.
Robertson, H.G. 1991. Things that go jump in the night. Musenews 4(11): 1. Reprinted in Slug 8: 16.
Robertson, H.G. 1991. Book review: The Ants. South African Journal of Zoology 26: 89-90.
Robertson, H.G. 1992. Book review: Practical Taxonomic Computing. South African Journal of Zoology 27: 150.
Slingsby, P. (Ed. H.G. Robertson) 1992. Ants of the Western Cape. Ekko, Kleinmond, 32 pp.
Robertson, H.G. Ants in Agriculture. A series of five talks broadcast on the early morning farmer's programme.
Robertson, H.G. 1993. Koeberg Revisited. Musenews 7(5): 1.
Robertson, H.G. 1995. Book review: Identification Guide to the Ant Genera of the World. African Entomology 3: 99.
Robertson, H.G. 1995. Kaokoland then and now. Musenews 9(11): 1-2.
Robertson, H.G. 1996. Book review: A New General Catalogue of the Ants of the World. African Entomology 4: 101.
Robertson, H. G. 1997. Meeting report: Insects in African Economy and Environment. Environmental Conservation 24: 366-367.
Robertson, H.G. 1997a. (Editor). Insects in African Economy and Environment: Proceedings of the Joint Congress of the Entomological Society of Southern Africa (11th Congress) and the African Association of Insect Scientists (12th Congress), Stellenbosch, 30 June - 4 July 1997. Entomological Society of southern Africa, Pretoria, 255 pages.
Robertson, H.G. 1997b. Entomological Organisations and Institutions in Africa. In: Insects in African Economy and Environment (Ed. H.G. Robertson). Entomological Society of southern Africa, Pretoria, pp. 229-255.
Robertson, H.G. 1998. Madagascan Biodiversity. Musenews 12(3): 1-2.
Robertson, H.G. 1999. Searching for the child within. Musenews 13(2): 1.
Robertson, H.G. 1999. Book review: Invertebrate Surveys for Conservation. Environmental Conservation 26: 153.
Robertson, H.G. 1999. Book review: Butterfly Conservation. Environmental Conservation 26: 154-155.
Robertson, H.G. 1999. Taking ants to new heights. Musenews 13(11): 1.
Robertson, H.G. 1999. Book review: Australian Ants: their Biology and Identification. African Entomology 7: 173-174.
Robertson, H.G. 2002. Subterranean ants: the last frontier. Notes from Underground, May 2002. www.notesfromunderground.org/methods/subants.html

Text by Hamish G. Robertson