The Zoological Society of Southern Africa (ZSSA) has held conferences since 1962. Given the major changes in national and international environmental priorities and in political and societal structures in South Africa over this period, together with technological advances, major shifts in research trends would be expected. The mix of papers presented at conferences held in 1984, 1994, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2007 and 2009 were investigated to identify trends in the subdisciplines, in taxa and habitats studied, and in the collaboration and participation of students. Trends reflected in publications by South African zoological researchers in 1980 and 2007 were also used. Zoology remains a strong discipline, with 16 university departments employing 16% more staff and 14% more professors in 2007 than in 1980. A large number of zoologists are also employed at museums (43) and at other research institutions (74). There has been little major change in terms of subdisciplines, or the taxa or habitats studied, and conferences have remained broad, with no narrow subdiscipline ever comprising more than 15% of presentations. Priorities for terrestrial zoological research identified in a 1995 commentary paper have not received noticeably more attention. Mammals have consistently received the largest amount of attention, but research on birds has increased. The split between research on vertebrates (64%) and invertebrates (36%), as reflected by publications, was identical in 1980 and 2007. Terrestrial research continues to dominate conferences and publications, and collaborative presentations have increased since 1994. Maintaining traditional research focus in filling of vacancies at universities and other institutions, as well as funding opportunities, have probably contributed to the maintenance of broad research coverage over the last 25 years. Major changes in funding strategies and the national focus on large, integrated scientific questions may influence trends into the future.
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Vol. 44 • No. 2