Masters Students (Dissertation)

Andrew de Blocq van Scheltinga

Andrew de Blocq van Scheltinga


Andrew is a Cape Town local, although his upbringing was split between the Western and Eastern Cape, having spent his high school years at St Andrew’s College in Grahamstown. After 5 years of small town life Andrew decided enough was enough and escaped on a gap year to Edinburgh, Scotland, working at the prestigious Loretto School and playing the bagpipes in his spare time. He then decided that it was about time he came home, and enrolled at UCT in 2011 for a BSc majoring in Applied Biology and Ecology & Evolution. After graduating with distinction in both these majors, Andrew then progressed to an Honours degree, working with Prof Justin O’Riain and Dr Guy Balme using camera trap data to analyse spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) populations – a first for the species. He also attended the 3-month Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) course based largely in Kruger National Park during the year. This reaffirmed his affinity for the biological sciences, in particular questions around conservation. Andrew graduated with his Honours in 2014, again with distinction. In 2015 Andrew registered at the Fitz to begin his Masters in Biological Sciences degree.

Andrew’s passion for nature, and especially birds, was borne out of trips to a family-owned farm in the Kouebokkeveld region, as well as vacations taken in nature reserves and national parks around the country. He began birdwatching at a young age, but only decided in late 2013 to take his birding to a more serious level. This passion has grown tremendously since then, and he considers it a huge privilege to now be a member of this prestigious ornithological institute. For the three months preceding Andrew’s official registration he worked on a contract basis for Prof. Graeme Cumming, collecting data on the cultural ecosystem service offered by birds in national parks through birdwatching experiences. Going birding in various parks all over the country was something of dream job, but when the opportunity to work on a conservation project in De Hoop Nature Reserve was advertised Andrew jumped at the chance. De Hoop has a special place in Andrew’s heart, having visited here many times during his childhood years on preschool and school camps, and he finds it exciting that he has the opportunity to ‘give back’ to this reserve through his research.

Ecotourism often presents a paradoxical situation where the need to conserve something necessitates bringing in tourists, who in turn disturb the species that were intended to be conserved. Even seemingly benign tourist activities, such as birdwatching, can have considerable effects on the animals being observed. Disturbance Ecology is a growing area of research, and has great potential in contributing to applied questions of conservation and sustainable ecotourism practices. Andrew will be investigating the effects of boating tourism on the waterbirds of De Hoop Vlei, a designated Birdlife IBA and RAMSAR wetland site, conducting tests on the effects of different boating routes, as well as whether bird responses differ when approached with motorized or paddled watercraft. The end product, in addition to his dissertation, will be a report to Cape Nature outlining recommendations for sustainable boat tourism. Andrew is being supervised by Prof Peter Ryan and Dr Robert Thomson.

Thesis (Submitted March 2017)

Disturbance effects of boat-based tourism on waterbirds at the Ramsar-designated De Hoop Vlei, Western Cape, South Africa. (Supervisors: Peter Ryan and Robert Thomson)


Rollinson, D.P., Cardwell, P., De Blocq, A. and Nicolau, J.R. 2017. Out-of-range sighting of a South Georgian diving petrel Pelecanoides georgicus in the southeast Atlantic Ocean. Marine Ornithology 45: 21-22.