The FMM Team

Group Leader: Prof Dave Drew

The FMM Research Group at Stellenbosch University is headed by Prof. Dave Drew, who also now fills the Hans Merensky Chair in Advanced Modelling of Eucalyptus Wood Formation (EucXylo).  Dave originally obtained his B.Sc. Forestry degree from the University of Stellenbosch, followed by an M.Sc. degree from the University of Natal.  It was during his M.Sc. studies that he really developed his interest and passion in modelling tree growth and xylogenesis (wood formation).  From this beginning, he moved to Australia to pursue this line of research further with  Dr. Geoff Downes and scientists such as Dr. Robert Evans, the creator of SilviScan, Dr. Tony O’Grady, Prof. David Ellsworth and Dr. Michael Battaglia.  Dave obtained his Ph.D. from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.  After that, he worked for several years as a Research Scientist at CSIRO Australia, based in the beautiful city of Hobart, Tasmania.  In mid-2015, Dave returned to South Africa with his family to take up his current academic position at Stellenbosch University.  He has written or contributed to 40 papers published in the peer-reviewed literature (see Dave’s Google Scholar profile).  Dave keeps in contact and works with a large network of scientists around the world including in France, Belgium, USA, Australia, Chile and Switzerland.

Currently, Dave has three main research foci, built on his passionate interest in wood formation and understand fine-scale responses in trees:

  • Applying various approaches to modelling tree growth and wood formation. 
  • Precision approaches to measuring tree stem size variation and diameter growth, particularly using electronic dendrometers. 
  • Approaches to visualising and characterising properties of and processes in developing xylem.

He is particularly interested in understanding these phenomena in and applying these techniques to the fascinating genus Eucalyptus.  Many species in this large genus exhibit extraordinary flexibility in their responses to environmental conditions, reflected in complex variability in their wood properties.  Dave has a passion for better understanding of what lies behind this complexity.

He is main or co-supervisor to several M.Sc. and Ph.D. students undertaking research in all of these areas, as well as other fields of study.  He is also responsible for the continual development and teaching of two under-graduate modules within the four-year B.Sc. (Forestry) program offered by the Department of Forest and Wood Science.

Technical Support Staff

Dr Leandra Moller

Leandra is responsible for managing the two laboratories (the “wet” lab and the microscopy/microtomy centre) at the Paul Sauer building used by students/researchers working as part of EucXylo.  She has over nine years of laboratory-based research experience.  She has worked with a variety of techniques and technologies, including a variety of microscopes and gas/liquid chromatography.  She will also work closely with students doing experimental work in the nursery complex, and at the experimental farm/other glasshouse facilities.


Mr Anton Kunneke

Anton provides strong technical support in all areas of “forest informatics”.  He has a particular expertise in the use of laser-based remote sensing, including Terrestrial LiDAR.



Extraordinary academics

Prof Klaus von Gadow

Prof von Gadow has been associated with Forest Management and Growth & Yield Science at Stellenbosch University for many years. At Stellenbosch, Klaus first undertook an M.Sc. degree, followed by a PhD degree, the latter which he completed in near-record time, in 1979. Just prior to finishing the PhD, he took up an academic position in 1978 at the Faculty of Forestry (now the Department of Forest and Wood Science, DFWS) at Stellenbosch, where he remained for 13 years. During this time, he impacted innumerable future forestry professionals which would work in South Africa and abroad, and made a major contribution to forest management research and practice in South Africa. He moved to the University of Göttingen in Germany in 1991, but retains a strong connection to Stellenbosch University through his extraordinary professorship.



Prof Thomas Seifert

Thomas is a strong collaborator and friend of Stellenbosch.  Thomas shares a strong interest in understanding causes of wood property variation.  He is also actively involved in research in research in a number of other aligned areas, including application of technologies like LiDAR for forest inventory and modelling