Masters Students (Dissertation)

Laurie Johnson

BSc (Hons) Wits




Laurie was born in Gauteng, and raised on the quiet South Coast of Kwa Zulu Natal. Her passion for biology and being outdoors led to her completing her undergraduate degree in biological sciences at the University of Pretoria in 2013.  She then went to the University of the Witwatersrand to complete an honours degree and through her project, which compared the hydrogen and oxygen stable isotope signatures of precipitation to those in Rock Dove feathers; she found her passion for birds.   

In 2015 Laurie did an internship through the NRF and Department of Science and Technology, based at the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town. Laurie’s passion for, and knowledge of birds grew during the course of this internship; and through this internship she was able to get involved with Earthwatch and their African Penguin Project on Robben Island. This project opened her eyes to the plight of these endangered birds, and this motivated her to join the Fitzpatrick Institute to begin a master’s degree. Laurie’s project will be to use stable isotopes to determine the food resources used by species of conservation concern, like the African Penguin, in the recently proclaimed Namibian Island’s Marine Protected Area ecosystem, another aspect of her project will determine if feather wear and feather colour affect the isotope signature of penguin feathers.   


Assessing the effect of feather wear on carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios, and the use of stable isotopes to determine predator diets in the Namibian Islands Marine Protected Area (Supervisor: Peter Ryan)