Michelle Bouwer

Michelle grew up in the Eastern Cape, where untouched beaches and wild thicket were decidedly more enticing than noisy streets and bustling shopping malls. She was an aspiring birder as soon as she could talk, dragging her bemused family of non-birders along for the ride.

“Agh, she will grow out of the bird thing eventually,” was the familial consensus. This was not to be the case.

Michelle completed her BSc undergraduate degree in Zoology at the University of Pretoria in 2018, followed by an Honours degree in Zoology in 2019. Her honours thesis involved the validation of faecal glucocorticoid metabolite assays for the non-invasive measurement of stress in southern yellow-billed hornbills (Tockus leucomelas). This research fell under the umbrella of the Hot Birds Research Project and produced two research papers in peer-reviewed journals in 2020.

Following her honours, Michelle completed an NQF level 2 qualification in field guiding in 2020. The highlights were undoubtedly the three five-day trails through the Hluhluwe Imfolozi wilderness region. The trails were trajectory-shifting, to say the least. They drove home the importance of maintaining natural spaces for the role they play both in ecosystem health and human mental health.

And so, an interest in conservation blossomed. After all, what good is a love for animal research if there aren’t any animals left to study?

Now, conservation is the new buzzword, but birds have not been forgotten! Michelle is a member of the Hot Birds Research Project once more. This time, she is studying the effects of the agricultural landscape and climate change on the breeding success of blue cranes (Anthropoides paradiseus) in the Overberg.

Ultimately, the plan is to study further, and eventually apply the skills gained in the CB course to practical conservation scenarios. This way, Michelle can help protect the natural resources (birds included!) that add so much meaning to her life, and indeed, to all our lives.  

Thesis: The influence of landscape factors and temperature on the hatching success of Blue Cranes in the Overberg. (Supervisors: Susie Cunningham, Peter Ryan, Christie Craig).