Kate obtained her BSc Biology major and Environment minor from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, in 2008. As part of her degree, she did a Panama Field Study Semester where she completed a research project as an intern at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) Noas Research Centre on fiddler crab Uca deichmanni burrow characteristics in relation to reproductive cycles with fellow student Zoé Joly-Lopez.
After a summer working for Bird Studies Canada as a High Elevation Landbird Program field assistant surveying remote areas for Bicknell’s Thrush, she was privileged to have the opportunity to work for Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada. She worked there first as an intern and then as a Wildlife Technician from 2008 to 2011. She conducted a variety of migratory bird field work: shorebird surveys, point counts, passerine banding, assistance with radar and geolocator deployment and retrievals with the elusive Bicknell’s Thrush. During this time, she also coordinated the Atlantic Canada Shorebird Survey volunteers in the Maritimes provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island and the Maritimes Nest Record Scheme. It was a pleasure to work with so many dedicated skilled individuals who dedicate their time to monitoring and conserving wildlife. They were part of the inspiration that led Kate to further her education and follow her passions for coastal bird monitoring, research and conservation.
In Febuary 2011, she left her home in Canada and journeyed to South Africa to start graduate studies researching African Penguin Spheniscus demersus as part of a multi-disciplinary research team investigating the Benguela current and an ecosystem approach to fisheries. Kate is researching the foraging stratedgy of breeding African penguins on the western Cape at Robben Island under the supervision of Professor Les Underhill, Research Associate Rob Crawford (Department of Environmental Affairs), as well as postdocs Antje Steinfurth and Richard Sherley. The research is supported by a UCT Marine Research Institute (MA-RE) bursary and support from Leiden Conservation Foundation. The GPS logger equipment has been provided from Oceans and Coasts, Department of Environmental Affairs, Republic of South Africa. Dr. Antje Steinfurth trained Kate to deploy and retrieve GPS-TD logger devices on breeding penguins in May 2011. Since then she has been equipping breeding African penguins with GPS-TD loggers on Robben Island since then to collect foraging trip data during peak breeding periods. Deployments are being timed to coincide with pelagic fish surveys taking place around the island to gain a better understanding of penguin foraging movements and behaviour in relation to pelagic fish density distributions over time and space around Robben Island. African Penguin, endemic to southern Africa, became listed as Endangered under the IUCN Red List in 2010. The research aims to answer questions of how foraging behaviour and effort varies with prey availability at this colony and what links might exist with demographic parameters such as chick condition.
See Penguin Tracks http://penguin-tracks.blogspot.com/ for updates of the African Penguin foraging research taking place on Robben Island.