Conservation Biology Masters Students (2017-18)

Sarah Catto

Sarah Catto


Sarah spent the first six years of her life in Johannesburg, with annual trips to a small game reserve bordering the Kruger National Park. This is where her deep love for the bushveld and all its plants and animals began and it is still her favourite place today. After moving to Cape Town at the age of six, she became interested in the plants and animals of the Fynbos biome. After high school her fascination with biology led her to a BSc degree followed by Honours in Biological Sciences at UCT. During her Honours degree Sarah completed two projects, the first of which looked at geographic variation in the echolocation frequencies of Geoffroy’s horseshoe bat. Near the completion of this project she was also able to assist a PhD student in sampling bats from a large colony in De Hoop Nature Reserve, providing amazing hands-on experience with these fascinating animals. During her second project, she attempted to determine whether ground Protea species of the south-western Cape use scent cues to attract the small mammals that pollinate them.  After her Honours degree Sarah completed a DST-NRF internship in the South African Bird Ringing Unit where she spent much of her time liaising with registered bird ringers, citizen scientists and members of the public. She also joined an Earthwatch trip to Robben Island to monitor the breeding colony of African Penguins, an absolute highlight of her internship.  Sarah is extremely interested in the practical side of conservation in southern Africa, and is hoping to one day work in either conservation management, or in wildlife rehabilitation. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, walks on the mountain, and spending time with animals.

Fluctuating human activity and associated anthropogenic food availability affect behaviour and parental care of Red-winged Starlings. (Supervisors: Susan Cunningham, Arjun Amar, Petra Sumasgutner)