Front row (L to R): Brittany Yanez ’14, Chelsa Wlodarczyk, Susan Margulis, PhD, ABEC assistant professor, Chase LaDue ’14, Catherine Phillips ’14 and Macy Madden ’14. Back row (L to R): Haylee Herman-Haase ’14, Kathryn Scime ’14 and Tyler Carver ’13.

Conservation South Africa

Canisius ABEC Students Study Wildlife Conservation in South Africa.

BUFFALO, NY – Seven senior animal behavior, ecology and conservation (ABEC) majors had the extraordinary opportunity to spend three weeks of their summer break studying the wildlife ecology and conservation of South Africa from a global perspective. The group traveled from May 20-June 14 under the guidance of ABEC Assistant Professor Susan Margulis, PhD. They include:

  • Haylee Herman-Haase ’14, an ABEC major
  • Chase LaDue ’14, an ABEC major with a minor in zoo biology
  • Macy Madden ’14, an ABEC and biology dual major with a minor in zoo biology
  • Catherine Phillips ’14, an ABEC major
  • Kathryn Scime ’14, an ABEC major
  • Chelsa Wlodarczyk ’14, an ABEC major with minor in zoo biology
  • Brittany Yanez ’14, an ABEC major with a dual minor in zoo biology and studio arts

Tyler Carver ’13, currently in South Africa as a research assistant on the Primate-Predator Project, also traveled with the students and served as a teaching assistant. The trip was part of Margulis’ core capstone course ABEC 404: Wildlife, Ecology and Conservation in South Africa.  “Our students immersed themselves in a part of the world that has some of the most unique habitats and most significant conservation challenges,” says Margulis. “In addition to giving students valuable field work experience, I wanted them to gain a more global perspective on conservation issues.”

The group spent the majority of the trip at the Lajuma Research situated high up in the Soutpansberg Mountain Range Centre in the northern part of South Africa.  Working with colleagues and students from the University of Venda, Canisius students learned basic field techniques and became acquainted with the key conservation issues facing South Africa. They learned such skills as how to use camera traps, GPS, bat detectors, small mammal traps and observation methods for wild primates.

Students then visited Kruger National Park and observed the diverse wildlife such as elephants, baboons and kudu. They stopped at the University of Venda, the Moholoholo vulture rehabilitation center and observed the largest Baobab tree in Southern Africa.

The group returned to Lajuma for their final week, where they participated in ongoing data collection on the habituated monkey groups at Lajuma (specifically the Sykes’ monkeys, or “samangos” as they are called locally).  At the Madaheni Combined School in Limpopo Province of South Africa (part of the global “eco-schools” program), students played a conservation game with children in grades 5-7.  On their final day, they climbed Mount Lajuma, the highest peak in the Soutpansberg Mountains. “In addition to obtaining priceless fieldwork with unique animals, we learned a lot about the people and culture of South Africa,” says Brittany Yanez. “I believe that when you travel anywhere new and experience a different way of life it will help make you a well-rounded individual. We left as students, but came back as teachers.” 

You can also view the images on our Flickr page by clicking here.

The largest program of its kind in the U.S., the Canisius ABEC program educates students about the science of animal behavior as well as the ethical and moral considerations involved in these fields. The major offers broad training in the nature of animals, their behavioral ecology, and mankind’s relationship to them. It is designed for students who wish to engage in a rigorous course of study on the behavioral biology of animals, and one in which they critically examine issues pertaining to animal welfare and wildlife conservation. A central theme underlying this program is the use of scientific knowledge about animal behavior for the benefit of animal welfare and wildlife conservation.

Find out more information about ABEC, visit

One of 28 Jesuit universities in the nation, Canisius is the premier private university in Western New York.