Previous Staff

Programme Director

DHDuncan Hay

Duncan was previously the Executive Director of the Institute of Natural Resources ( and  is an Associate Research Fellow at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Duncan has an MSc. degree from the University of Natal and a post-graduate diploma in environmental security from the University of Cambridge. He has over thirty years’ experience in natural resource management and rural development programmes and projects, and in developing the capacity of young professionals in these fields. He has led multi-disciplinary teams to several awards including a national Green Trust Award for the Eastern Cape Estuaries Management Programme. Duncan has authored over forty reports and publications, many of them focusing on translating technical subjects into a language that is understandable to the general public. Apart from directing the Institute his recent focus has been on freshwater resources, particularly the role nature plays in water security.  

Duncan is married to Vicky who has an MA degree obtained in the USA. She is the head of marketing at Epworth School. Vicky played US College Circuit tennis and has completed the Comrades Marathon on twenty occasions. Duncan is also a runner and has completed Comrades on eleven occasions. He also participates casually but enthusiastically in mountain biking and fly fishing.   


mbDr. Mark Brown

Mark holds a position as honorary researcher at the School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, and is a Y2 NRF rated scientist. Mark has published over 80 scientific publications in peer reviewed journals, was a contributing author to Robert’s VII Birds of Southern Africa, has authored several book chapters, and has presented research papers at national and international conferences. Mark has co-supervised over 30 postgraduate students, and is passionate about mentoring young conservationists.

He regularly reviews papers for national and international journals, has written numerous popular science articles, and given many public presentations. After working on staff at the University of KwaZulu-Natal for over 12 years, while volunteering with several prominent conservation NGO’s (BirdLife South AfricaEndangered Wildlife TrustA Rocha: South Africa), Mark stepped across the gap and has moved full-time into the NGO environment. He currently sits on the Board of Directors of BirdLife South Africa, and is an Associate Editor for the Journal Ostrich (African Journal of Ornithology). Mark has won numerous national and international awards for his research and conservation work.

To see his full publication list - pop across to his Research Gate page.



Conservation Education Manager

KirwanProf3Kirwan Strydom

Kirwan holds a degree in Environment and Development from the University of Stellenbosch. After completing his undergraduate studies, he started volunteering at CapeNature in the Stewardship and Corridor department. Impressing as a volunteer, he was employed as a Groen Sebenza intern within CapeNature.  While working as a Community Conservation Intern he completed his BSC. (hons) in Integrated Water Resource Management at the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

As his internship came to an end, an opportunity arose with the Nature’s Valley Trust which he grabbed with both hands. He is also currently studying to obtain his Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) through UNISA. This has enabled him to continue to live out his passion and dream to help uplift communities.





CLCCindy-Lee Cloete

Cindy has a National Diploma in Nature Conservation from Cape Peninsula University of Technology and after completed her experiential training at Wolfgat Nature Reserve, became part of the City of Cape Town’s Biodiversity Branch intern intake. During this time she worked in both the Wolfgat and Macassar Dunes Nature Reserves. With a passion for Environmental Education Cindy-Lee soon became a proficient educator and excels at teaching people about their specific environmental surroundings as well as conservation principles. Becoming the Conservation Education Director for the Nature’s Valley Trust in October 2009 fulfilled one of Cindy’s life-long goals in not only being a link between nature and people, but also to effect the change she wants to see in the world. Cindy was one of the first 500 Mandela Fellowship Young African Leaders Initiative participants in 2014, brainchild of President Obama. Being chosen as one of the 500, out of 50 000 applicants, and being further chosen as one of 100 participants offered a further two month internship in the USA has been a highlight of Cindy’s career. Cindy is currently doing her Masters in Environmental Education at Rhodes University in Grahamstown.


Conservation Educator

MCuMardré Cupido (April 2018 - December 2018)

Mardré is a Conservation educator at the Nature Valley Trust. She is a thriving Boland girl, who grew up in Robertson. She holds a BSc. Medical Biosciences degree from the University of the Western Cape. For her thesis she completed a research project on Malaria. After which, she taught for over 3 years at both primary and high schools. Her main subjects were mathematics, mathematics literacy, life sciences and Afrikaans. She will also be completing her PGCE diploma at UNISA in 2018.

She developed a keen interest in life sciences at university and this has fueled her passion for conservation, teaching learners and creating awareness in communities. This is how she now find herself working for NVT, with their main pillars focused on conservation, community awareness, environmental education and ecological research fitting well into her life goals.

Her goals while working at NVT is to open doors to the environment, connecting learners with their surrounding and cultivating a love for nature and sustainable utilization of it. She would also like to be more involved in the research projects NVT has to offer, to continue learning and fueling her love for the life sciences and conservation biology. 


Conservation Ecologist

CMCraig Midgley

Craig, born and raised in Gauteng, completed his MSc. in Fisheries Science from Rhodes University in 2014. A career change followed when he became a bird and wildlife rehabilitator at SANCCOB (Cape Town) and Tenikwa Wildlife rehabilitation Centre (Plettenberg Bay).

He completed a 3 month shorebird internship at Nature’s Valley Trust from September-November 2015, and when the opportunity arose to join the NVT staff in November 2016, he couldn’t pass it up.

Craig headed the line-fisheries research component of the Coastal Impact Programme (#SHareTheShores) and assisted in the various Environmental Education (EE) Programmes of NVT. 





Marine Scientist

GPDr. Gwen Penry (January 2018 - December 2020)

Dr Gwenith Penry is a marine mammal biologist and supervisor of the NVT marine team. She has focused her research on the South African Bryde’s whale but over the past 14 years has worked on several species in different countries around the world. Although originally born in South Africa, Gwenith completed school in the UK and then BSc Hons in Zoology at Cardiff University. During this degree she spent a year back in South Africa working with Dr Vic Cockcroft at the Centre for Dolphin Studies where she began the Bryde’s whale research and was exposed to a wide range of research techniques. Gwenith has completed her PhD on the Biology of South African Bryde’s whales. This was done through the University of St Andrews’ Sea Mammal Research Unit and the Centre for Dolphin Studies in Plettenberg Bay. The focus of this PhD was to identify the abundance, seasonal occurrence and genetic identity of the Bryde’s whales that occur in and around Plettenberg Bay. Through the University of Pretoria’s Mammal Research Institute, Dr Penry then embarked on a 2 year postdoctoral research project to extend the work done during her PhD by collecting data in False Bay and East London. This work is the first of its kind to investigate the population size, distribution and occurrence, and genetics of this poorly studied species.  Gwenith worked for the Plettenberg Bay Environmental Forum as their consultant and during this time was contracted to prepare the application to UNESCO to have the Garden Route Biosphere Reserve declared. It was during this process that she was introduced to the importance of identifying ecosystem services and their value to communities. Gwenith is continuing to run the Southern African Bryde’s whale project. She is currently registered at the Nelson Mandela University’s Coastal and Marine Research Institute, co-ordinates the local Plett Stranding Network, and is actively involved in long term monitoring of marine mammals (and other marine life) along the south coast of South Africa. In January 2018, in collaboration with the Natures Valley Trust, they were awarded a 3 year funding cycle from the WWF Nedbank Green Trust to commence a study on the socio-economic and ecological sustainability of marine tourism in South Africa. She is a strong advocate of citizen science contributions to better understand the occurrence and distribution of marine mammals and the value of public education and engagement in the marine environment. 


Research Technician

CJ3Caitlin Judge (January 2018 - December 2020)

Caitlin is a Marine Research Assistant and digital content creator for Nature’s Valley Trust. She has a BSc. Hons degree in Zoology from Newcastle University in the UK, F.G.A.S.A guiding experience and research skills. Alongside her academic studies she has creative experience in videography, social media and graphic design. This mixture of experience helps to bridge the gap between scientific research and communication to the public- something she is passionate about. When she’s not out on our research vessel she can still be found in the ocean most days surfing, embracing the ocean and its incredible inhabitants.







CHChanel Visser (January 2018 - December 2020)

Chanel is a Marine Research Technician at Nature's Valley Trust. Although she grew up in Johannesburg, she moved her life down to the coast after school and completed her National diploma in Nature Conservation at NMU Saasveld, George campus. During and after her course, Chanel spent just short of two years at ORCA Foundation as a volunteer co-ordinator and manager of an international marine conservation, education and research volunteer program, as well as a Marine guide for Ocean Blue Adventures. Chanel has spent most of her career life as a marine guide, having returned to guiding on the boats again recently at Ocean Odyssey in Knysna, and so she has a wide understanding of general cetacean behaviour, but she has also specialised in wildlife rehabilitation. Chanel worked with an extensive variety of wild animals and then focused particularly on seabirds, having spent almost three years as a rehabilitator at SANCCOB Saves Seabirds. As a rehabilitator, she also got very involved in tour guiding within the sector, therefore her myriad of guiding roles elicited her immense passion for environmental education. After SANCCOB, Chanel wanted to add more value towards seabird conservation and went onto being more involved in seabird research in the Seychelles. Chanel is an avid lover of the ocean and so when she is not out as an active member of the Plett Stranding Network, responding to mammal strandings or rescuing seabirds and turtles, she is always educating the public about the ocean by spending most of her time at sea via boat. Chanel has her skippers licence and has also volunteered time with NSRI, gaining extensive sea knowledge. A variety of qualifications and skills combined, have made Chanel the strong ocean ambassador she is today.