Meet our volunteers


Our volunteers spend a minimum of 2 weeks assisting NVT within all four of our focus areas: Research, Conservation, Environmental Education and Community engagement. This is a great opportunity to get a better understanding of what conservation is about; how to share the knowledge we gain with local communities and educate learners on sustainable living. It is also an important insight into the workings of a small NPO.


Craig Bradbury (April 2019)


Craig has always enjoyed the outdoors; he grew up on a farm in England with a love for nature. He is keen to learn more about nature, plants and animals, how to conserve and look after the environment. A google search lead him to NVT, to a place he felt would meet all his needs in terms of conservation and awareness programmes. Craig had a fantastic two weeks, which he soon realised was way too little time spent in this amazing part of South Africa. 


Megan Fowler (July - August 2018)

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Megan is a 21-year old from Wales. She has recently completed her degree in Zoology with Climate Change from Bangor University and will be starting her Masters studying freshwater ecology in September. Megan is passionate about research and monitoring for conservation. Joining the NVT team for a short period of 4 weeks and is excited to gain some hands on experience in Natures valley.  


Sabrina Engelmaier (June 2018)


Sabrina is an 18-year-old from Austria and Argentina. She came to NVT due to her interest in conservation and ecology. She plans to attend university in September to study environmental sciences and economics. With the help of the trust, she was able to gain first-hand experience and attain knowledge from all the staff and interns. She thoroughly enjoyed her 3-week stay and hopes that next time she is able to stay longer. She met wonderful people, who welcomed her and treated her like she was part of the team, even though she is 18 years old. Sabrina learned all about marine conservation, bird ringing, and how to work in a team.

Sabrina says: “It’s gone by so quickly! I don’t want to leave! Just look at the view”.


Natasha Jacob (January - March 2018)

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Natasha is a 19 year old from near Winchester in England. She is currently on her Gap year and has been travelling since September, where she started on the west coast of Scotland. Since December, Natasha has been in South Africa, taking in as many sights and experiences as she can, as well as reconnecting with her family here - she’s half South African you see, but this is her first ever visit to the country! Aside from academia, Natasha thoroughly enjoys spending her time listening to and playing music - as she sings and plays the saxophone - dancing, swimming and generally exercising, spending time with her friends, family and dogs, baking, writing and reading about life. Natasha plans to start University in September to study ‘Human Ecology’, and as part of her time in South Africa, felt it was a good idea to immerse herself in some of the Ecology and conservation of the country to give her a head start with her studies. So that’s what brought Natasha here, to Nature’s Valley, and subsequently to the wonderful Nature’s Valley Trust.

Natasha says: "In total my time here will have been 6 weeks, but honestly I didn't anticipate how fast it would fly by. In my last weeks here I am very much looking forward to spending time with the wonderful people of the Trust, immersing myself in the wonderful work that’s taking place here and will forever hold NVT and the awesome work that it does, very close to my heart."


Aidan Henri (December 2017 - January)

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Aidan holds a Master’s degree in Freshwater ecology from the University of Johannesburg. She came down from Johannesburg to have a break from her desk job and gain some hands-on experience in working for a NGO. Aidan is passionate about conservation, research and monitoring and spent three weeks in the Valley working on the Trusts coastal impact and fynbos research programmes. 


Mo Langmuir (June - July 2017)

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Mo Langmuir joined the NVT team as a short-term volunteer for two weeks. Mo comes from the UK and is currently busy with her degree in Biology conservation at the University of Nottingham. While she was with NVT she played an amazing role in helping with our recycling and swop shop project with Kurland community. 


Madison Foltz (June - July 2017)


Madison Foltz is from Greenfield, Ohio. She is a second-year student at Ohio University studying English. She has been passionate about wildlife and getting people involved and interested in conservation for a long time. For these reasons she persued a volunteer opportunity with NVT, for six weeks, through Ohio University’s Cutler Scholars Program.

Madison says: "I’m excited about this opportunity to get hands-on experiences in a totally new place. Eventually, I hope to complete a minor in environmental science with my degree and write for a conservation-oriented publication or journal"


Harry Lockwood (January - February 2017)

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Harry is prospective engineering student at the university of Cape Town with a deep passion for marine ecosystems. He came to Nature's Valley Trust as a volunteer to gain first hand experience in marine conservation. He was welcomed warmly into the family and fitted in well been the youngest of the volunteers at just 18.

He came down from Johannesburg to help volunteer in a 4 week break before the start of university. In his four weeks he has done: bird ringing, raptor ringing, mosquitofishing and and took part in NVT's quarterly Groot River fish survey.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the NVT and the people who make up the small but impressive backbone of this NGO, it was definitely an amazing experience. I would highly recommend it to anyone with a passion for marine conservation. I intend to come back and help further, once I have finished my degree."


Rebecca 'Becky' Padget (July 2016 - August 2016)

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Becky is a biology student at the University of York with a particular interest in ecology. She spent four weeks with NVT to get first-hand experience of conservation in action, and because of her interest in practical application of scientific research.


Sara Jean Banks (July 2016)

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Sara Jean Banks joins us from Denver, Colorado.  She currently serves as a science teacher for a secondary school and also serves as a guest lecturer for the University of Colorado.  She has earned both a bachelor's degree in Environmental Science from the University of Colorado and a master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Denver.

Her passion has always been with science, but realized early on that she had a knack for working with kids of all age levels and
backgrounds.  It made sense to incorporate these two into a perfect union with teaching!

As an early child, she had always dreamed of coming to Southern Africa to see the wildlife and experience the different cultures.  She finally made this dream come true.  She is a firm believer in learning and interacting from locals wherever she travels.  She searched for an organization that would put up with her, let her learn about their work and cultures and also participate in field work that she could hopefully incorporate into her own course curriculums back home. Nature's Valley fit quite nicely!


Ben Lucking (June 2016 - July 2016)


Ben is a high school student originally from England, but currently living in Dexter, Michigan. He has always been interested in nature, and enjoys birding, photography, and soccer. He volunteered at NVT to gain a better understanding of what conservation work is like, and will take a biology related field in university. 


Ben holding a one-eyed Cape Weaver (left) and surveying the Groot River Estuary for Mosquitofish (right).


Madeleine Pienaar (June 2016 - July 2016)

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Madeleine Pienaar is a third year Conservation Ecology student at Stellenbosch University. Madeleine and her friend, Megan, came to volunteer at NVT and get some first-hand experience in the conservation field. Being a science student and having an interest in nature and sustainability, the Nature’s Valley Trust seemed like an amazing place to spend three weeks to Madeleine.

Madeleine says: ‘ I generally try to not have expectations, but whatever remained lurking was completely exceeded. Thank you for all the insights, experiences and good vibes. ‘


Madeleine watching the brid-ringing process

Megan McCarthy (June 2016 - July 2016)

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Megan McCarthy is from Cape Town where she is currently in ther third year of Conservation Ecology at Stellenbosch University. She found out about the Trust through a UCT professor she met while on a field trip about the Battle of Blaauwberg Hill. When she leaves she goes back to her studies and from there she has no set plans but hope to end up in the Valley again one day!

MeganMegan scribing for Madeleine and Ben while they count, measure and sex mosquitofish.

Kirsten Kober (October 2015)

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Kirsten was a Seabird Ecologist, working for the Joint Nature Conservation Committee in Aberdeen, Scotland. At home she is mostly involved in work on marine seabird protection areas around the UK. To get a break from her desk work, and because she planned to take part at the World Seabird Conference 2015 in Capetown, she decided to make the long journey really worthwhile by adding some fieldwork with the Trust to her trip. She spend 2 weeks in the Valley, where she happily engaged in all kinds of activities, with or without birds


Kerstin doing one of her favourite things: handling birds. Here, with a Cape White-eye (left) and White-fronted Plover chick (right).



Karen Barlow (May 2015)

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Karen joined the NVT team for a 2 week period in May 2015. She comes from Texas, in the USA. She has a BA in Recreational Management, and Social Studies and has a background in working in campground management (Parks and Recreation). Karen was doing a round-the-world trip to gain knowledge and experience in the conservation field and stopped off at NVT to assist us before she moved on to explore the conservation sector a bit more, elsewhere.


Playing with a clawed friend during a birding masters outing (left), feeding the goats after a Monkeyland/birds of Eden adventure (middle) and chumming the waters on a pelagic shark trip.


Megan Haurvette (January 2015)


Megan was a Nature Conservation student from CPUT who won a weeks stay on our volunteer programme on Birdlife SA’s seabird quest competition.

Megan said: 'I really enjoyed the exposure I got when participating in NVT's research programmes.'


Adeleen Cloete (December 2014)

DSC03689Ella works in Integrated Coastal Management for the provincial government of the Northern Cape. She spent two week in December 2014 helping us facilitate our holiday programme.


Sunette Du Preez (December 2014)


Sunette was a BSc. Zoology student from Rhodes University. She volunteered with us for the month of December 2014. Sunette not only participated in  fieldwork for our research programmes but was a valuable asset for our December holiday programme. 


Elrea Appelgryn (May 2014 - July 2014)

Posing with a Cape Sugarbird

Elrea Appelgryn joined the NVT team, as a volunteer, after completing her MSc in Genetics at the University of Pretoria. She wanted to experience something different to her own, predominantly laboratory-based research and everyday life in Pretoria, as well as taking an important break before starting her PhD.

During her six weeks in Nature’s Valley she was surrounded by many passionate conservationists – strengthening the notion of appreciating and protecting our natural environment, she had in her mind. She strongly states: ‘It is important that every person does their part, whether it involves working in conservation full-time as a researcher, spreading the message through education, being involved in formulating or implementing policy, or at the very least just supporting great organizations dedicated to preserving our natural heritage.’


Elrea preparing to release a Pale Chanting Goshawk (left) and sampling macroinvertebrates in the Groot River Estuary (right).


Kellyn Whitehead (April 2014 - March 2015)


Kellyn Whitehead began her journey with Nature's Valley Trust in March 2014 as a volunteer. She volunteered for a year and during this time worked with the research team. She did her BSc. undergrad and BSc. Honours in Biodiversity and Ecology, through the University of Stellenbosch. Kellyn started the phenology work within the fynbos documenting the flowering times of the plant species as well identifying what plants are in the Nature's Valley area.

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Kellyn performing insect exclusion experiments (left), determining nectar concentration and volume of her target species (middle) and releasing a bird after it git its ring


Katie Powell (April 2014 - May 2014)


Katie hales from the University of Sheffield in the UK, where she is majoring in Zoology. She volunteered with NVT for 2 months to increase her practical field skills as well as quenching her thirst for travel and sight-seeing.

Katie has a strong interest in insects, and spent most of her afternoons identifying macro-invertebrates from the Groot River estuary as contribution to the macro-invertebrate project NVT runs. Her ID skills increased dramatically and, we were later told, helped her tremendously with a project she had scheduled for her final year of study.

Katie reports on another side of the NVT experience: ‘I have learnt a great deal about some of the social and cultural issues present in South Africa, which I think are important to understand when working in this field. By staying in a house with the NVT interns, I have had the pleasure of discovering a whole new culture through listening to their stories and spending time with them. I feel like I’ve made a new group of life-long friends, and I will miss them all significantly.’


From Left to Right: data collection for mosquito fish; horseback safari adventure; releasing a Jackal Buzzard after ringing; mosquito fish sampling equipment.


Olivia Reddy (April 2014)

Me with Jeff the Cape White eye I untangled from the net

Olivia was completing her BSc. in Environmental Science at the University of the West of England, Bristol. She did not have a background in conservation but rather in environmental politics and communication and wanted to gain skills in the conservation sector on a more practical level.

According to Olivia, the most valuable part of her stay at NVT was watching, observing and learning how to run a NPO.  She has learned a lot about managing a NPO and the difficulties a small organisation like this faces.

Olivia says: ‘…I’m not only leaving with practical skills in conservation and NGO management, but also with increased self-confidence and another family in South Africa.”



Counting fruits of the red hot poker (Kniphofia uvaria) (left) and a morning at sea (right)


Michelle Blankenberg (November 2013 - December 2013)

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Michelle was a BSc. Zoology student from Rhodes University. She volunteered with the trust for 6 weeks from November to December 2013. Apart form spending time conducting fieldwork on our various research programmes she played a key role in helping us facilitate the December 2013 holiday programme. Having loved her time volunteering with us so much, Michelle returned to Nature's Valley in 2014 to collect data for her BSc. Honours project on the baboon-human interaction in Nature's Valley.


Pete Morley (August 2013)

Pete was an Ecology graduate from the UK who spent 2 weeks with NVT, gaining valuable field experience on our various research programmes.


Hannah Mountain (August 2013)

Hannah was  a British school teacher working in Spain. She took time out  for 2 weeks to experience the work of a conservation NGO.