Meet our interns!
Our volunteer interns spend a minimum of 6 weeks at NVT. They participate in all aspects of the Trust from Conservation and Research to Environmental Education and Community Engagement but these interns are also responsible for their own specific project.
Faye Hudson (May - August 2019)
Faye Hudson is a Geography and Natural Hazards student from Coventry University in the UK. She is currently on a placement year volunteering with various conservation projects around the world. Having completed three months in New Zealand as a conservation volunteer, and three months in Ecuador volunteering on a private nature reserve, Faye has found herself with NVT for her final three months working alongside the team in Nature’s Valley.
She is looking forward to working with the team, meeting new people and gaining hands-on experience of conservation and education by getting involved in as many projects as she can whilst with the NVT before heading back to the UK to finish her degree.
Elizabeth Choi (May - July 2019)
Elizabeth Choi joins us from York University - Glendon Campus, situated in Toronto, Canada. She is currently finishing up her Honours degree with a double-major in International Studies and Environmental & Health Studies.
With past experience of South Africa through a term-long exchange program done at the University of Cape Town, Elizabeth has built her continuing passion for environmental conservation through a South African perspective. Her focus on marine debris alongside awareness and education will be further explored during her stay with NVT. Her ongoing passion for researching better solutions for a cleaner world will be closely incorporated with her field work. She is delighted for her three-month stay and hopes to fulfill her tasks and project by understanding through a localized perspective the promotion, education and advocacy towards a sustainable lifestyle.
Elizabeth is eagerly excited for what her future holds with NVT!
Elelwani Makhuvha (December 2018 - May 2019)
Elelwani finished her undergraduate degree in Animal, Plants and Environmental science (APES) and Geology at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2017. She believes taking courses with a focus in conservation, landscape and fresh water ecology and sustainability allowed her to strengthen her passion for the environment. Elelwani enjoys the great outdoors, being around nature while adding to her knowledge of the environment. She recently (2018) finished her BSc Honours degree in Ecology where she focused on research, GIS, sustainability and climate change.
Elelwani hopes to bridge the gap between studying and work-experience in these six months she will be with the trust. She is looking forward to taking up a research project of her own and getting involve in the various work the trust does, which includes but not limited to Conservation education, Shorebirds and Marine debris project.
Caitlin Kensett Smith (December 2018 - March 2019)
Caitlin joins us from Sydney Australia. At the end of 2016, she completed her BSc. in Environment majoring in Environmental Management and Biology. Caitlin loves learning about the environment surrounding her, and especially learning about how ecosystems work as a whole; from the biggest mammal to the smallest invertebrate.
Caitlin’s interest in ecosystems lead her to a three-month internship in the Limpopo province, working on a Big 5 Game Reserve. While she thoroughly enjoyed her time there, she decided to trade the bushveld for the marine environment, to follow what she is truly passionate about.
Caitlin has a deep love and appreciation for the watery world, from marine to freshwater to estuaries, she loves it all. Caitlin is most looking forward to learning about the rocky shores and larger mammal behaviour patterns and can’t wait to continue her internship with NVT.
Rí Galway (December 2018 - March 2019)
Rí Galway, has come to us from Ireland. Rí studied wildlife biology at Institute Technology Tralee and is currently on a gap year to explore the working life of a conservationist and the range of work available.
Rí has spent the last 3 months in the region of Limpopo on a big 5 reserve and is now spending another 3 months along the coast here with NVT. He hopes to get a large range of experience with as much diversity as possible. Currently Rí has gotten an interest in community work, focusing mainly on the environmental education side.
Rí hopes to return to university after another few months of volunteering in conservation so that he can make a more insightful decision into his career path.
Talya Honor (October 2018 - January 2019)
Talya Honor comes to us from Cape Town, South Africa. Talya graduated with a degree in Politics and Sociology at the University of Cape Town but soon realised a passion for teaching and has been teaching English overseas and Environmental Education in SA for the past 8 years. Talya is also incredibly passionate about the environmental and conservation and is eager to learn as much as possible as an Education Intern with NVT!
Rose Angela (October - December 2018)
Rose joins NVT from the UK where she has spent the last year working for a conservation trust. Her previous experience mostly comprised of grass and woodland ecology so moving to Natures Valley is a great new challenge. She has aspirations to go to university in the future to study conservation or sustainability and hopes to work out exactly what path to pursue later. Currently she is excited to get involved with the marine debris project as at home she has spent a lot of time in advocacy and campaigning against disposable plastics.
Olivia Saacke (September - November 2018)
Olivia is 22 years old and from Lexington, VA. She recently graduated from James Madison University with a BSc. in Geographic Science, concentrating in Environmental Conservation, Sustainability, and Development. She has always enjoyed being in nature but other hobbies include rugby, soccer, and hiking. Olivia is passionate about environmental conservation and excited to participate in fieldwork and get hands on experience!
Christina Hoang (May - August 2018)
Christina joins us from Toronto, Canada, where she developed an interest for sustainable development in urbanizing areas. Overtime her interests in sustainable development expanded beyond cities as she learned more about vulnerable locations that rely on their ecosystems - especially coastal populations. She is eager to learn more about the ins-and-outs of what it takes to work in an environmental NPO, and is excited to join NVT in assistance with the marine debris project.
Christina just finished her fourth year at York University where she studies International Development, specializing in environmental studies and migration studies, along with a minor in Mathematics. She hopes her passion for social justice and science will allow her to make a positive contribution to conservation research.
Leandro Evangelista (May - August 2018)
Leandro is from Toronto, Canada, joining us for a 3-month internship. He completed his 3rd year at York University where is pursing an Honours B.A. in psychology. He loves anything to do with nature and animals, and he saw this as great chance to work with them overseas. Leandro will be helping us with the Environmental Education program and all other current projects. He is very curious and eager to learn about everything NVT does. Leandro knows he will end up working with alternative medicine, even though the path forward is not quite clear yet. He is deeply curious about humans and their capability to heal themselves. He believes we all have a wealth of resources within ourselves to heal and understand who we are. He affirms that our connection to nature is a very important piece to improving our overall well-being. He is beyond excited to be here, and extremely grateful, because this experience will help him grow and put into practice what he advocates.
Yannick Pauli (February - May 2018)
Yannick is from Zurich, Switzerland and joined us for a 3-month internship. He is currently in the last year of his BSc. degree in Natural Resource Sciences with a specialization in nature management at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences. He also did a minor in field ornithology last year and is stoked to get some practical experience with birds, which he’ll hopefully use for future projects back at home. After completing his BSc. he would like to do a MSc. in Wildlife Ecology and Wildlife Management and gain further knowledge.
Yannick says: 'I will be assisting on NVTs Coastal Impact Program for three months and hope to make a valuable contribution to the important work NVT is doing to preserve the coastal ecosystems in the area."
Hayley Mitchell (February - April 2018)
Hayley is an accountant from Toronto, Canada. She’s always been passionate about the ocean and environment and studied Environmental Sciences at the University of Guelph for 2.5 years but due to her location (being far from any coast) she changed degrees and pursued accounting as a career. Two years at a desk job for someone who has a love for the outdoors, along with a quarter-life crisis: it was an equation that resulted in some big life changes such as going abroad, trying something new and getting some experience in conservation (NVT). After her [amazing] time with NVT, she will be moving to the West coast of Canada – BC – to be with the ocean.
Her end goal is to find a way to merge her financial background along with conservation. :) And of course, save the oceans...
Claire Gaudart-Wifling (November 2017 - May 2018)
Claire joined us from the UK after completing her MSc. in Conservation and Biodiversity at the University of Exeter. She has been fascinated and passionate about marine ecology and conservation her whole life, but after working with Blue Tits for her Masters thesis project she realised that she also wanted birds to play a role in her future conservation career – which was why an internship position at NVT was so perfect for her! As a Coastal Impact Intern, she has been able to combine her two passions, by helping with the Shorebird Project alongside other marine conservation initiatives such as the Marine Debris Project, and it didn’t hurt that the internship also meant she got to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world for 6 months! Once her internship is complete, Claire hopes to continue building her conservation career in South Africa, as she’s not quite ready to let go of the country just yet!
Sabine Meurrens (November 2017 - February 2018)
Sabine studied in Brussels, Belgium, where she obtained a MSc. in Ecology and Biodiversity. After travelling to Zambia for her thesis project, she really wanted to explore more of the African continent, and live and work abroad for a while. She really enjoys lots of outdoor work as well as data analysis. Joining NVT as an ecological research intern, she combined her travel dream with doing just that.
“I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to do this internship. The plenty of fieldwork on a variety of projects really gave me hands-on experience that will be of great advantage for the rest of my career. By helping with the holiday program and school camps I also discovered that I find working on environmental education quite interesting too, as I enjoyed it more than I originally thought I would! The things you learn about yourself when you do stuff you wouldn’t normally do!”
Having had such an amazing time with NVT she pursued another internship in the US to work on vegetation research projects. With a baggage full of abroad experience in conservation work she’s now back in Belgium and excited to put the gained knowledge and skills into action for nature research there.
Alexandra Bazrafshan (June – September 2017)
Alexandra joins NVT from Toronto, Canada. She just finished her fourth year at York University, where she is completing a B.Ed. as well as a B.A. in English and French Studies, with the aim of becoming a teacher. She found out about this position through her university, which funds an internship program to give their students experience living and working abroad. Although she does not have a scientific background, Alexandra is eager to learn and develop her skills. She will mainly be assisting with Environmental Education initiatives – and any other projects she can get her hands on! Once these three months are over, Alexandra will be back in Toronto to complete her final year of school. She knows that this experience will give her more knowledge to bring into her future classroom, and deepen her appreciation for the hard work that conservationists do.
Zoé Dillman (May - August 2017)
Zoé joins us all the way from Canada’s Capital: Ottawa. She has just completed the first year of her degree in Psychology with York University. As a matter of fact, she found this position through her university’s global internship program, which gives their students the opportunity to experience living and working abroad. Zoé will be a member of our research team assisting with our Coastal Impacts Program, in particular, the marine debris project. Similar to most 19 year olds, Zoé hasn’t quite decided on a specific career path, and so she’s keen to participate in different opportunities with the hope of developing not only her work related research skills, but also her personal growth. Zoé hopes that the exceptional experience and knowledge gained while here at NVT kick starts her international life journey. Seeing as she plans to study abroad somewhere in Europe for her third year of studies, South Africa won’t be the last time her passport gets an International stamp!
Pascal Künzel (April - July 2017)
Pascal is the first Swiss intern at Nature’s Valley Trust. He lives in a German-speaking part of Switzerland and studies nature management at the University of Applied Sciences of Zurich. After his three months as an intern with NVT he will be attending some final courses before he will write his Bachelor thesis and complete a minor in Ornithology.
Pascal is working on the Mosquito Fish Project to get a better understanding of the impact invasive species have on the beautiful Groot River Estuary and its inhabitants. If negative impacts by the mosquito fish are observed through Pascal’s analysis of our three-year dataset, we hope that the study will inform a management plan. The overarching aim would be to reduce the impact of the Mosquito Fish to preserve the Estuary in all its beauty and diversity.
Joy de Vos (March - August 2017)
Joy is a 22-year old Animal Management student from the Netherlands. She hails from Groningen, which according to her is ‘the best city for Dutch students to live in!’
She is currently in her third year of studies which requires her to complete a five month internship. Her time with NVT will be her first internship experience abroad, although she has been in South Africa before (2013). During her previous 1-month visit to SA she volunteered at a wildlife organisation in Limpopo. She tell us that she had two close encounters with some elephants while volunteering and from that moment on her love and interest for elephants and other African wildlife began to blossom.
Her future plans, after completing her current degree is to work for or manage her own wildlife sanctuary in Africa. She believes that an involved and proactive community is important and essential for any successful conservation programme and would love to add an element of environmental education to her sanctuary.
Joy says: “During my internship at NVT I want to help plant seeds of conservation ethics. I hope I’ll get to know the local communities and see how NVT promotes an aware community.”
Mark Wildschut (March - August 2017)
Mark was born, raised and bred in the city Leeuwarden, also known as the capital of water technology in the Netherlands. With this background he decided to study Integrated Coastal Zone Management at Van Hall Larenstein, University of Applied Sciences. The BSc. study programme roughly consists of two internships, a minor and at the end a thesis project. Mark did his first internship at the regional water authorities looking at the ecological changes in two different water bodies. He followed this up with a minor in Fisheries & Aquaculture. After the minor ended he was craving to learn more about this subject and so, a new chapter in his life begain.
A bit tired of living in the same city for his whole life, he made up his mind and wanted to go abroad for his last internship. After some research he ended up on the other side of the world, here with the Trust! He will be assisting on our Coastal Impact Programmes, with specific focus on the Fisherman Programme for the next five months.
Mark is keen in gaining experience in field work and developing his skillset in order to be prepared for his professional career in the fisheries sector.
Taylor Frerichs (February - April 2017)
Taylor comes to Nature’s Valley from Denver, Colorado in the United States. She studied Conservation Biology and Ecology as an undergraduate at Montana State University. After graduating in May 2016, she decided to use the rest of the year to gain valuable work experience before starting her Master’s degree. The internship with NVT provided a exciting opportunity to gain fieldwork and other research experience, along with insight into the inner-workings of a conservation organization. These opportunities, combined with the chance to travel to a new part of the world was something Taylor just couldn't say no to, and she looks forward to everything these next three months will bring.
Aurora Hood (January - March 2017)
Aurora grew up in rural Illinois, USA, where she discovered her passion for conservation. She spent her time as an undergrad at the University of Northwestern - St. Paul in Minnesota studying Biology and Psychology. There, Aurora also monitored local water quality and conducted research on woodpecker predation of the emerald ash borer in local forests. After receiving her BSc in December of 2016, she spent time with her family before joining the NVT Shorebird team in January. After her time with NVT, she will be pursuing her Master's Degree in Applied Conservation and Ecology at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK. Aurora's greatest loves are woodpeckers, prairies, and Lake Superior.
Andrea Gress (September 2016 - February 2017)
Andrea grew up on a farm in Canada, where she spent her spare time outdoors developing a strong passion for the environment. After completing a degree in Renewable Resource Management, Andrea decided to go adventuring in Australia, Vietnam and New Zealand. While traveling, she held numerous roles as a tour guide, but longed for something more. Andrea has now settled into Nature’s Valley for six months, where she hopes to kick start a career in conservation.
Christina Marques (September - February 2017)
South African born Christina always dreamt about becoming a marine biologist. So when she finalized her degree while growing up in Portugal and returned 20 years later to what she has endlessly considered home, she found that she had a passion for conservation/rehabilitation, in particular, of seabirds, which came about when she completed a very educational and fulfilling internship at SANCCOB assisting in the rehabilitation of various seabirds and hand-rearing of African penguins. She so thoroughly enjoyed her time working on seabirds that she searched for something similar but different enough to keep her engaged, which brought her to Nature’s Valley Trust and the plight of the White-fronted Plover.
Jesse Beck (December - February 2017)
Jesse received his BSc in Biogeoscience from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2015. While at university, Jesse became interested in ornithology and has since been doing seasonal avian field work. He worked with large macaws in Peru and conducted avian point counts in Iowa before joining Nature's Valley Trust. He plans on conducting point counts in the Southern Great Plains upon returning to the USA.\
Amber Hatch (September - December 2016)
Amber Hatch grew up in South East London and attended university in Cambridge to gain a degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare. After university, she worked as an Animal Technician in Cambridge and then landed a job as an Ecological Field assistant working in the Scottish Uplands. It was here that her love of fieldwork bloomed and she began really showing an interest in conservation research. She’s always had a keen interest in birds so when the epic chance to get involved with the White-fronted Plover project arose, she jumped at the chance.
Carissa Wasyliw (September - November 2016)
Carissa joins us from Canada, one of the two Canadians on the 2016/17 shorebird team. Having studied conservation biology as a part of her undergraduate degree at the University of Alberta, she is very keen to assist in learning more about the decline in population of the White-fronted Plovers, and what can be done to help them out! Carissa grew up spending much of her time outdoors, which has helped foster her love of nature and all that is in it. To this day she remains an adventure seeker, so when the opportunity to come to South Africa arose, it was too good to pass up. When you see her around the valley, do not hesitate to say hi!
Pilar Bayon (April - June 2016)
Pilar is a Journalism and International relation student from Madrid (Spain). She came to Nature's Valley Trust as part of an Aid and Development program in the Netherlands. She enjoyed working in research and environmental education during the 8 weeks here. For this reason, she would like to orientate her professional career to environmental and science journalism.
Hanna Rots (April - June 2016)
During her time in Nature's Valley she worked on the educational side of Nature's Valley Trust. 'Working with the local community was really special. The children are so kind and interested! Working with Cindy was inspiring!' she says. Besides working on the educational programs she also did research.
She plans to finish her studies next year. After which she hopes to get a job working with environmental issues. This experience also helped her in getting more direction in life.
Hanna says: 'For me this was a great time where I could really develop myself!'
Audrey Bonk (January - July 2016)
Audrey Bonk is from Chanhassen, Minnesota in the United States. She studied animal ecology at Iowa State University. During her time as an undergraduate she fell in love with birds and has made it her passion to become a leading ornithologist. Audrey joined NVT as an intern working on the Shorebird Project. In 6 months time she hopes to accomplish writing and publishing a paper about white-fronted plovers.
Chloe Brookes (December - June 2016)
Chloe is a recent zoology graduate, from the UK, joining the Natures Valley Trust to gain knowledge and experience working with shorebirds. She will also be working with the environmental education director to gain experience in community engagement and education. Chloe has particularly enjoyed meeting staff members and volunteers with similar enthusiasm for nature conservation.
Jennifer Parker (January - April 2016)
Jennifer joins us from the UK and graduated from the University of Sussex where she studied, er… English Literature and Film! She's worked in the tourism industry for nearly 8 years in all sorts of different roles including sales, accounting, sustainability and product management. Jennifer is passionate about sustainable travel and using tourism to benefit the people and places that need it most while causing as little harm as possible. She also drinks a LOT of tea
Matthew Logan (March - April 2016)
Matthew is an 18 year old from Scotland who volunteered with the trust (for 5 weeks) during his year off between school and university. During his time with the trust he was involved in a range of projects, including organising holiday programme activities, monitoring beach usage and heading the initial stages of camera trap surveys - documenting the presence of animals in and around the Valley. In September Matthew will return to Scotland to begin studying Ecology at Edinburgh University, where the experience and knowledge he gained at NVT will no doubt give him a head start!
Alex Cook (November - February 2016)
Alex comes from the coastal peninsula of Cape Cod Massachusetts where she developed a passion for coastal ecosystems and the species that inhabit them. She has focused her studies and work experiences on shorebirds in the United States and is very excited to work with a new species of plover, the White-fronted Plover, here with Nature’s Valley Trust. She had a great time getting to know the beautiful beaches of the area and adding new birds to her life list!
Julia Brown (October - December 2015)
Julia is a graduate from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. She came to Nature’s Valley to gain some field experience, but spends most of her time working in the social media space as she realised she doesn’t like long grass (snakes...). Some of her highlights have been participating in mist netting and finding some plover chicks on the beach!
Twan Slagter (September - January 2015)
Twan Slagter hails from the Netherlands where he attends Van Hall-Larenstein University of Applied Sciences. He is here as part of a 5-month internship for a Coastal and Marine Management course. Twan has always been passionate about nature and the conservation of it. He also enjoys the coastal environment and is happy to be part of the White-fronted Plover research, which will allow him ample time on the beach.
Craig Midgley (September - November 2015)
Craig Midgley has an MSc degree in Fisheries Science from Rhodes University. He spent the last year working at SANCCOB (Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) rehabilitating African penguins and other marine birds. He has a passion for the coastal and marine environment and the associated fauna which landed him at the shores of NVT. He will be assisting one of our Coastal projects, for three month, focussing on the White-fronted Plover. Craig hopes to broaden his conservation skill set to allow him to pursue a career in fisheries and/or ornithology.
Sam Stretton (August - September 2015)
Sam worked in the corporate world of logistics and training for 20 years before she decided to take a career break and take some time out. She was looking for a volunteering organisation to spend a couple of months with to gain a clearer perspective on her future. Nature’s Valley Trust was recommended to her by another volunteering agency as a place she should consider.
Since arriving at the Trust she has been exposed to all aspects of the research, development and educational programs. With her training background she tended to lean towards the educational aspect of NVT and found a niche in designing and structuring training for the Adopt a Beach program. Being passionate about marine conservation she took the opportunity to explore and document the abundance of life found in the Nature’s Valley rocky shores.
Ukyoung Chang (May - June 2015)
Ukyoung is a student at Duke University, in North Carolina, USA, studying Biology. She first fell in love with South Africa when she studied abroad through OTS (Organization for Tropical Studies) for a semester, and not wanting to leave the motherland, contacted NVT about the internship opportunity. During her stay at Nature's Valley, her main focus was a research project on the effects of bird exclusion cages (large and small mesh size) on bee visitation rate of Kniphofia uvaria. The study found the cages do not significantly impact the visitation rate of bees. This finding does, however, not hold true when the mess size is too small. She is also currently working on a bird themed environmental education booklet to assist with outdoor classrooms.
Robin Fokker (February - July 2015)
Robin did his internship with the Nature’s Valley Trust as a part of the Bachelor’s course: Integrated Coastal Zone Management, he is completing at Van Hall Larenstein, Netherlands. This course consists of two internships abroad of 5 months each. After doing the first one, in Slovenia, with a focus primarily on labwork, he decided that he wanted to gain some experience in the field and venture outside of Europe. With the internship with the Nature’s Valley Trust, these two were combined perfectly, with a project titled: The spatial distribution of beach litter and beach visitors on the Nature’s Valley Beach, South Africa.
He surveyed the beach twice a week, 8 hours per day, to collect coordinates of both beach visitors and litter, which were separated in several categories. These coordinates were the input data for several spatial distribution maps to compare categories of the two. The results lead to the accurate location of several kinds of beach visitors and the litter they leave behind.
Robin describes his times at NVT as: ‘some of the best months of my life, gaining experience in so much more than I could have hoped for. I met some great people and made some greater friends, making it an experience I will always remember!’
Felix Zundel (August 2014 - January 2015)
Felix was a student from the Netherlands doing an internship with Nature’s Valley Trust (NVT) in completion of his bachelor’s degree in Integrated Coastal Zone Management at Van Hall Larenstein. For Felix this internship was his first big journey into another continent. The first four months he spent based in Natures Valley, he experienced it out of peak season with empty beaches and so much space. He also had the opportunity to stay Plettenberg Bay for a month, experiencing the difference between the solitude of empty beaches and a bit of “citylife” in Plett. For his research project he interviewed fishermen on the beaches and collect data concerning litter, catches and attitudes of anglers, enabling the Trust to assess the ecological impact of shore-based fisheries. This was the perfect internship for Felix as he is an absolute outdoors person. He was out on the beach for hours doing research but even in his downtime could not keep away from the splendour of the coastline. His research took place in 3 beautiful sections along the famous Garden Route coastline, each completely different.
Felix reflecting on his time here: ‘What I liked most I think was the way the internship was set up from the Trust's side, it was not just taking part and helping out but I had my own project where I had to take full responsibility for and I really worked as part of a team taking part in all other projects.’.
Shirley van de Voorde (September 2013- January 2014)
Shirley joined us for a 5 month period in fulfillment of her Bachelor degree in Coastal Zone management as part of the requirements of Van Hall Larenstein. Her main focus while at NVT was research-related; she monitored the effects of anthropogenic disturbances on African Black Oystercatchers and Kelp Gull breeding success. Her projects covered Robberg Nature Reserve and Keurbooms Nature Reserve. The sites at Robberg had the highest egg predation rate; 67% of eggs laid (over 5 nests) were predated. To test for the effects of human disturbance on birds, she observed their reaction to human beach-goers as well as measured the minimum distance she could get to birds before they were disturbed off the nests. Another aspect of the project looked at how long it took birds to return to the nest and continue brooding. The two species showed a marked difference in their return times. Gulls returned very quickly, while the oystercatchers took far more time to return – taking care to ensure that the location of the nest was as concealed as possible. This is due to different nest protection strategies: the oystercatcher protects its nest through camouflage and distraction while the gull protects its nest through aggression and intimidation.
Eliska Padysakova (July - August 2013)
Eliska was a PhD student from the University of Bohemia in the Czech Republic. She arrived at NVT in July and stayed for 6 weeks - gaining field experience, while working on Erica discolor as part of the Tsitsikamma Fynbos Research Programme.