Karen J. Esler received her postgraduate education at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. A BSc (Distinction, Botany) followed by BSc Honours (First Class) in Botany and Zoology was followed by an Ecology-based PhD, supervised by Richard Cowling, on arid zone seed banks and vegetation dynamics. Following a post-doctoral year at UCLA with Professor Phil Rundel, she joined Stellenbosch University in 1995, first in the Department of Botany and later (2005) in the Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology. In 2008 she was promoted to full Professor. Her research experience is in population and community ecology of semi-arid vegetation, and she has published over 80 peer reviewed publications in journals and books. The overall goal of her research has been to understand how drivers of change (over-exploitation, habitat fragmentation and alien invasion) influence population and community structure and processes in South African fynbos, karoo and riparian vegetation by researching aspects of seed bank ecology, germination ecology, seedling establishment and phenology. The applied aspect of this work has been to advise on aspects of best-practice management, restoration and conservation. Esler has a particular interest in social-ecological systems and in linking research and management. She is a core team member of the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology, the Centre of Excellence for Tree Health Biotechnology, and an associate of the Stellenbosch University Water Institute. Esler was the first woman president of the South African Association of Botanists (2006-2008), and is particularly interested in promoting women in science. She currently serves on the HERS-SA board, and South African Association of Women in Science and Engineering. She is on the Editorial Board of the Open Access Journal ISRN Ecology, serves as the South African representative of ISOMED, and serves on the SAEON Fynbos Node Liaison Committee. Esler has received several awards for her teaching, and has graduated 36 MSc and 5 PhD students (1998-March 2011).