• Post category:2024 / News
  • Reading time:4 mins read
8 March 2024

(4 April 1971 – 21 December 2023)

It is with heavy hearts that we bid farewell to a dear friend and respected member of our academic community, Stefan Foord. It is with sadness that we learned of Stefan’s sudden passing on Thursday, December 21, 2023. His departure leaves a void that will be felt not only within the C·I·B but throughout the field of biodiversity science in South Africa.

Stefan was born in Pretoria, where he attended High School Eldoraigne. He later pursued his passion for science at the University of Pretoria, earning both his Bachelor of Science and completing his PhD. In 1997, he started his academic career at the University of Venda, where he joined the former Department of Zoology.

In 2008 he was invited to join the C·I·B as Core Team Member, where he was instrumental in setting up the C·I·B’s long-term monitoring programme in the Soutpansberg which investigated the environmental controls of ant and spider diversity in the region. During his time as Core Team Member, he was a prolific C·I·B supervisor, graduating 18 Honours, 3 MSc.s and 1 PhD (Caswell Munyai).

Stefan’s research interests were as diverse as the ecosystems he explored, but he will be forever remembered for his passion for spiders. His groundbreaking work on the biodiversity and ecology of spiders in South Africa left a permanent mark. His involvement in the preparation of the First Atlas of South African Spiders, the Red List of South African Spiders, and the national spider checklist advanced our understanding of arachnology.

Stefan contributed significantly to the systematics of Afrotropical spiders, notably through his doctoral research on Hersiliidae, his legacy includes the description or co-authorship of 29 spider species.

At the time of his passing, Stefan held the position of NRF SARChI Chair in Biodiversity Value and Change in the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve within the Faculty of Science, Engineering, and Agriculture, at the University of Venda. His professional affiliations included the African Arachnological Society, International Society of Arachnology, and South African Society of Systematic Biologists.

Beyond his academic pursuits, Stefan was also an avid runner and cyclist, with participation in major sport events including the gruelling Comrades Marathon.

But perhaps the most profound reflections on Stefan’s life come from those staff and students who worked close with him.

“I first met Stefan at the beginning of 2007. He was teaching me a second-year ecology module. Right then, I knew he was different and passionate about what he does and I would like to work with him in the future. My dream came true at the end of 2008 (after completing my honours) when I approached him to supervise my MSc. We started a long-term elevational study in the western Soutpansberg mountains. At the end of my MSc, I continued working on the Soutpansberg transect for my PhD. Stefan has been more than an MSc and PhD supervisor and recently a collaborator and mentor to me; he was a father figure and a role model to those he teaches, particularly to his postgraduate students,” reflects Caswell Munyai.

Stefan, your passion for life, whether in the laboratory, in the field, or on the race track, will be cherished by all who had the privilege of sharing those moments with you. We thank you for your invaluable contribution to biodiversity science in South Africa. Your dedication and warm friendship will be dearly missed. Rest in peace, dear Stefan.

A special tribute to Stefan Foord was recently published in African Entomology: https://doi.org/10.17159/2254-8854/2024/a17810