Alta started as a lecturer in the department on the 1st September. She started her academic training as a behavioural ecologist, completing a PhD on the interactions of fur seals and great white sharks at the University of Cape Town, in 2010. After her PhD she left academia for two years to manage the MAPA Project, a non-profit initiative that aims to make African conservation more visible online. In this role, she taught conservationists how to use free online tools to communicate their work and has been instrumental in setting up the beginnings of an online registry and map of African conservation areas and actions. She remains involved with this initiative on a volunteer basis and firmly believes in working collaboratively with non-profits and other public-benefit organisations to co-develop research agendas.
Her involvement with the MAPA Project piqued her interest in understanding protected areas as social-ecological systems, which lead to a post-doc with Prof Graeme Cumming at the University of Cape Town. In her research, she explores spatial elements of resilience of protected areas, questions of scale-mismatches, and map and analyse the contribution of different kinds of protected areas to South Africa’s development and conservation goals. She has a strong interest in mapping and quantifying ecosystem services and trade-offs in protected areas. In this realm she is increasingly interested in linking participatory approaches and remote sensing. More recently, she has started to investigate the dynamics of protected area establishment and change, protected area governance networks, and the spatial footprint and social-ecological consequences of land claims on protected areas. More generally, she is interested in teaching methods (particularly quantitative methods) for understanding social-ecological systems.