Our Conservation Heroes
Top Left: Trudi Malan, Theanette Saal, Pinkey Ngewu. Bottom left, Alison Towner, Kelly Baker, Meredith Thornton, Sandra Hoerbst
Alison Towner - White Shark Biologist
Inspired from a young age by her late father’s ambition to dive with White Sharks, Alison graduated from UK’S Bangor University in 2006 with a BSc Honours in Marine biology. After working in the Red sea as a PADI instructor, she joined the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, South Africa, in January 2007 and has remained on site ever since! Alison spent the first five years as a guide for Marine Dynamics Tours interacting daily with divers. This opportunity enabled her to collect extensive observational data on white sharks from which she completed her MSc through the University of Cape Town. With fellow colleagues at the Trust, Alison has co-authored publications on white shark regional population dynamics, wound healing, environmental parameters affecting great white sharks, their movements via acoustic tagging, and tracking and their hunting strategies. Alison continues with her studies on white sharks in Gansbaai with a focus on tracking and telemetry and a continued interest in environmental influences, particularly climate change.
She is currently in progress with her PhD which examines the relationship between cage diving and behaviours of white sharks in control and cage dive designated zones. With a philosophy that science can save sharks, Alison is committed to research that helps us better understand white sharks and in turn better protect them.
Favourite quote: “Within you is the divine ability to manifest all you desire”- Wayne Dyer (irony that is his surname!)
Kelly Baker - White Shark Biologist
Originally from Sydney, Australia, Kelly has lived near the ocean her entire life and it has always held such a fascination for her. “I believe it comes from the unknown of what lies beneath the surface, from tiny rock pools brimming with sea life to the dark depths inhabited by either rarely seen or undiscovered creatures. My interest in sharks, particular the Great White Shark, started from a very early age and I sought to learn as much about them as I could. This love of the ocean and the species that inhabit it led me to undertake a Bachelor of Biological Sciences with the University of Wollongong. I was inspired after my studies to travel and volunteer abroad, which is how I found myself in South Africa in 2013, spending 2 months in Gansbaai with Marine Dynamics. In the beginning of 2014 I found myself back with Marine Dynamics but this time as a crew member. I could not envision a better day than being out on the water seeing these magnificent creatures and giving people the chance to experience the true Great White Shark for themselves, as well as doing so as part of a team that seeks to protect and conserve these and other species through research and educational programs.”
Meredith Thornton - Whale Research Co-ordinator
"I joined the Dyer Island Conservation Trust because I am passionate about conservation and it is imperative for me to work in an organisation that truly walks the walk, believes in what they do and makes a difference in the world around them. All of our research, conservation, education and social projects are active, useful and the number and scope of these projects is growing. I will strive to maintain the high quality and robustness of our research, and will continue to build relationships with tertiary education and conservation organisations. I am immensely proud to be associated with the Trust and know that exciting times lie ahead!"
Favourite Quote: “We make living by what we get, we make a life by what we give” - Winston Churchill
Sandra Hoerbst - Whale & Dolphin Biologist
Sandra graduated from the university of Innsbruck, Austria. She focused her bachelor thesis on th Social structure of Bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth in cooperation with the Cetacean Research & Rescue Unit in Gardenstown, Scotland. She has been a guiding biologist for Dyer Island Cruises since 2014. During May this year Sandra was part of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust team who joined forces with a group of researchers from Sea Search Research and Conservation, the Mammal Research Institute’s Whale Unit (University of Pretoria) and Center for Statistics in Ecology, Environment and Conservation (University of Cape Town) to collect acoustic and behavioural data, photo ID’s and biopsy samples from dolphins and whales in the Overstrand area.
Trudi Malan - Bird Rehabilitator
Trudi is dedicated to saving the endangered African penguin. Having worked with this species for twenty four years she has seen the threats and losses faced by the penguin and other seabirds. Trudi fell into penguin conservation when she was involved in an oil spill and her heart was then sold on these tuxedoed and charismatic birds. Trudi has the scars to prove all the years she has worked with these birds – penguins have strong beaks. Trudi was instrumental in setting up the rehabilitation facility in Cape St Francis where she worked for many years with minimal funding. Trudi has been connected with the Dyer Island Conservation Trust and was key to the setting up of the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary project in Gansbaai. Trudi handles all standard operating procedures and protocols of APSS. As she continues to reside in the Eastern Cape, Trudi visits the sanctuary once a month for a week at a time, but knows her well trained team of Theanette, Xolani and Mervin have everything under control. Trudi has been involved in the fight against the setting up of a nuclear power station Thyspunt in her beloved town of Cape St Francis. She is a seasoned journalist with a passion for environmental issues using her words to educate and inspire.
Favourite quote: “Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Theanette Staal - Bird Rehabilitator
Theanette has a BA in Political Science but realised her true calling was with animals. After obtaining a certificate in field guiding she went on to gain a University diploma in Veterinary Nursing and is a registered veterinary nurse with the SA Vet Council. Theanette also studied for a certificate in Osteoarthritis management in small animals (Incl. Physical Rehabilitation). She has had a varied career from guiding overland trips and working at a ski resort in the USA to working as a night sister in the UK, and night ICU sister at Onderstepoort . She has physical rehabilitation experience having worked at a small animal rehabilitation clinic.
Favourite quote: “You are only as touched by the magic of this life as you want to be” – Mia Hollow
Pinkey Ngewu - Environmental Education
Pinkey joined the Dyer Island Conservation Trust in October 2015 assisting with administration, fundraising, projects and education. Pinkey is a marine and nature guide with a diploma in Nature Conservation. Pinkey’s nine years’ of experience in conservation and tourism makes her keenly aware of conservation needs and sustainability of our natural resources. Pinkey is also involved in the operations of FGASA (Field Guides Association of Southern Africa) in the Western Cape and Namaqualand region as an Executive Coordinator. Pinkey is a passionate educator and has implemented the DICT’s Environmental Education Programme (DEEP). She has a deep love for educating children to create future conservation ambassadors. The group she works with is all female as she sees far too few females in critical conservation roles. Pinkey’s warm nature and infectious laugh has made her a treasure to those that work with her.
Favourite quote: Your favourite quote: “Our connection with nature may not only determine our happiness but also our attitude about protecting the environment we inhabit.” - anon