Lara Howard

Growing up in the Scottish countryside, Lara spent much of her childhood outdoors and exploring. Her love for animals and the natural world meant there was never any question of what she wanted to pursue and, aged 16, she started her BSc in Zoology at the University of Glasgow. Her third year was spent studying at the University of Alberta in Canada, which expanded her horizons and exposed her to the benefits of international education. She spent one year in Canada studying, travelling, and working, though her favourite memories are all ones of the outdoors – primarily involving hiking and bear-spotting in national parks.

Having a South African dad, Lara was lucky enough to visit South Africa throughout her childhood, alternating Christmases between her mum’s family in Scotland and her dad’s in South Africa. Some of her happiest memories are of the sea and mountains in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. For someone who is so fond of the sunshine, she is not sure how she has stayed in the UK for so long.

She is particularly proud of her final year research project, which gave her the opportunity to contribute to an interdisciplinary team studying malignant catarrhal fever, a disease that is detrimental to small-scale pastoralists. She analysed survey data from pastoral households in Tanzania, which was collected pre- and post-vaccination. This project further fuelled her passion for African ecology, and she found it incredibly inspiring to work with such an internationally renowned team.

As an enthusiastic birder, Lara has also been involved in wildlife-monitoring projects in the Scottish Highlands, following mainly waders, but also birds of prey. Many of the species she was involved in handling and ringing were Red Listed, which exposed her to the very real threat of extinction facing many species native to the UK.

In her local community, she has held a Visitor and Events Assistant volunteer role in the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the UK’s leading nature conservation charity. She is passionate about involving the community in conservation initiatives, to bridge the gap between scientific research and practical application. She found being an ambassador for the RSPB to be extremely rewarding and is grateful to the incredible conservationists she worked alongside, who were able to share their stories from the field and inspire her further.

Lara is confident that her life will entail many years dedicated to wildlife conservation and she is sure that the completion of the MSc Conservation Biology course at UCT will equip her with the skills and experience to allow her to do so.