The 17th of December 2012 was a very special day for Alison Towner, Senior Biologist for the Dyer Island Conservation Trust. She graduated with an MSc Zoology from the University of Cape Town. This 2 year long project was a research based masters with the department of Zoology and the Animal Demography Department.
Achieving your MSc Zoology is no easy feat – especially if your project revolves around the infamous Great White Shark. Her thesis looked at boat based sightings data of Great White Sharks in Gansbaai with environmental influences. Over 6000 sightings were consistently collated and statistically modeled between 2007-2011, which amounted to a solid data set for analysis. The results found white shark sexual composition in the bay is strongly influenced by ENSO (climatic phase) and water temperature.
Alison’s love of our oceans is tangible when you are in her company and she was the first researcher to present this regional water temp/ENSO hypothesis in the Western Cape at the Durban shark and ray meeting in 2010, and at SAMMS (South African Marine Science Symposium) in 2011. She has submitted this work for publication and look forward to continuing with this research towards her PhD in 2013.
“The study was challenging but super rewarding at the same time. I'm very grateful to my mentors and colleagues, especially Prof Les Underhill (UCT) and Dr. Malcolm Smale (PE Museum and University) as well as Wilfred Chivell (DICT) for their support. I feel that I have gained some vital skills during the MSc which has equipped me for the next stage in my career. As in most scientific projects, once we have some answers to questions a whole bunch more emerge, and that's exactly the case with white sharks in this area!” was Alisons reply when asked how she felt about her achievement.
Alison’s future is very bright, her Great White Shark tagging work is giving very interesting insights in the behavior of the sharks in our bay, and we’re looking forward to seeing this bright young lady tackle her PhD with the same vigor she approached her MSc.