Conservation Biology Masters Students (2016/17)

Sarah Casola

Sarah Casola


Growing up near the New England coast, Sarah always loved exploring the salt ponds looking for local wildlife. After high school, her interest in nature led her to pursue a BSc degree in Biology from Ithaca College in upstate New York. It was there that her interest flourished into a passion for nature conservation and wildlife research. At Ithaca College she was involved in a number of research projects, ranging from a mammalian behavioural study to a survey of wildlife use of man-made roads. She was also involved in a project aimed at monitoring the migratory patterns of the yellow spotted salamander, a species commonly killed in road traffic. On a trip to Belize in Central America, Sarah completed a research project on the varying attitudes toward wildlife conservation among the local residents. This experience opened her eyes to the social component of conservation and the necessity of finding solutions that incorporate the interests and needs of the people that live around wildlife. In 2014, her fascination with African flora and fauna drove Sarah to Cape Town, where she spent a semester at UCT. Her time at the university as well as her travels in southern Africa fuelled her desire to contribute to the conservation of African wildlife. After graduation, Sarah moved to Cape Town and began volunteering at the South African National Biodiversity Institute. While there, she used molecular techniques to reconstruct the phylogeny of African file snakes and was also involved in a study characterising the populations of a critically endangered dwarf mountain toad at Cape Point and Silvermine nature reserves. Sarah hopes that the completion of the Conservation Biology MSc will provide her with a firm grip on the conservation issues facing South Africa and the rest of the world and equip her with the knowledge and tools to conduct research with wildlife conservation as its core motivation.


The potential impact of climate change on the genetic diversityof the endangered western leopard toad Sclerophrys pantherina. Supervisors: Claire Spottiswoode, Krystal Tolley