When growing up, every kid gets asked what they want to be when they're older. If all those answers came to fruition one would think there would significantly more vets and marine biologists then there are today. But I stuck to my original answer: "I want to work with animals." After matriculating in 2008, I enrolled for a BSc at UCT where my passion for animals turned into a growing knowledge and appreciation of the natural world. Once my three years were done, I knew that I had only just scraped the surface and that there was so much more to learn and experience, so honours in zoology seemed to be the next logical step.
My thesis topic for this year focuses on the long term effects of oiling on the endangered African Penguin Spheniscus demersus at the breeding colony on Robben Island. The last major oil spill to have an impact on these birds was the Treasure spill of 2000. Since then, data have been collected on the breeding success of the birds that were, and were not, oiled during the spill. I will be involved in collecting the 12th year of data and will be running a breeding success analysis on this long term data set. Previous studies by my co-supervisor, Richard Sherley, have shown that having been oiled seems to affect the penguins' breeding success during the energy-demanding chick rearing stages. I aim to see if this effect can still be seen 12 years after the spill and if factors such as food availability could possibly explain this discrepancy in breeding success. Understanding the impacts of oil spills is an important component in the conservation of the African Penguin and I am thrilled and honoured to be a part of it.
This honours project is being supervised by Les Underhill and Richard Sherley.
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