Meet the Team

Landscape Conservation Programme

Ernst Retief

Landscape Conservation Programme Manager

Ernst’s main responsibility is to support the staff within the Landscape Conservation Programme. The focus of the programme is the implementation of biodiversity stewardship projects in South Africa. Ernst is a keen birder and supporter of citizen science projects, such as the Southern African Bird Atlas Project. He has been working at BirdLife South Africa for more than 13 years. During this time, he co-authored the revised Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas Directory and supported the declaration of the new Key Biodiversity Areas network. He is passionate about Geographic Information Systems and using spatial tools to inform conservation planning. Ernst has a MSc in the social sciences.  


Dr Giselle Murison

Western Cape Estuaries Conservation Project Manager
As the Project Manager for BirdLife South Africa’s Western Cape Estuaries Conservation Project, Giselle is responsible for facilitating improved protection and appropriate management of priority estuaries within IBAs in the Western Cape, in partnership with government organisations, other NPOs and local stakeholders. This includes relevant policy input and support, and the initiation, implementation and support of conservation initiatives to benefit estuarine ecosystem health, including habitat management and rehabilitation projects, such as alien clearing, saltmarsh restoration and fynbos management, environmental awareness and education, and scientific research and monitoring in key estuarine IBAs.

Philipp Grundlingh

West Coast Estuaries Conservation Officer

As part of the Landscape Conservation Programme Team and the Western Cape Estuaries Conservation Project, Philipp is tasked with tackling conservation issues facing the Berg River and Verlorenvlei estuaries, with a specific focus on the restoration and safeguarding of sensitive estuarine habitats. He has a BSc (Hons) degree in Zoology from Nelson Mandela University and is currently completing his MSc in the ecology of the larval fishes of the Swartkops Estuary. Philipp is passionate about conservation and when he’s not working, likes to free dive, spearfish, garden, play chess and birdwatch.

Carina Pienaar 

Ingula and Grasslands Conservation Project Manager 

Carina is primarily tasked with the conservation of South Africa’s birds and their habitats by contributing to the conservation success of the Ingula Nature Reserve and surrounding protected environments areas (Upper Wilge and Sneeuwberg Protected Environments, and other initiatives in progress). This includes coordinating and implementing avifaunal and ecological surveys in the Protected Areas (PA), scientific and conservation input into the management of the PA, and the implementation, updating and development of action plans for priority bird species which occur at Ingula and in the surrounding area. She is also working towards further PA expansion (e.g. the proposed Jadelo Nature Reserve and proposed Verkykerskop Protected Environment) in the Eastern Free State and providing post-declaration support to the existing PA network, assisting landowners with becoming active stewards of the land and managing it optimally for both biodiversity and agriculture.


Steve McKean

Director of Conservation Outcomes

Steve McKean is a director of Conservation Outcomes, implementing incentive-based mechanisms for conservation. He has over 28 years’ experience as an ecologist specialising mainly in sustainable resource use, natural resource management, vegetation ecology, protected area management, resource economics and in developing and implementing market-based solutions to conservation challenges. He was one of the initiators of the innovative and successful KZN Biodiversity Stewardship Programme in 2005/6. Steve’s work has involved working with a variety of people in developing sustainable solutions to complex conservation issues.  He has focused more recently on developing and facilitating mechanisms for rural people to benefit from sustainable natural resource management. Steve is currently leading processes to secure 9 new Protected Areas in KwaZulu-Natal and coordinates post declaration support to over 20 areas already secured. He has written over 58 scientific reports, policy documents, papers, book chapters and articles and presented more than 39 papers at national and international conferences on various aspects of conservation, sustainable natural resource use and management. Steve has an MSc in Ecology from the University of the Witwatersrand and is a registered professional natural scientist.

Through the partnership between BirdLife SA and Conservation Outcomes, Steve is responsible for expanding the work of the Landscape Conservation Programme in KwaZulu-Natal. Steve is working with private and communal land holders to conserve critical bird habitat outside formal Protected Areas, primarily through the KZN Biodiversity Stewardship Programme. Steve, together with partners such as Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife is also coordinating the Blue Swallow monitoring programme in KwaZulu-Natal.

Dr Kyle Lloyd

Rockjumper Fellow of White-winged Flufftail Conservation

Kyle oversees the research and conservation of the Critically Endangered White-winged Flufftail (WwF). The WwF serves as a flagship species for safeguarding South Africa’s peat-based wetlands that are inhabited by a diversity of unique animals and plants. Kyle’s responsibilities are broadly divided into (1) conducting research on WwF population dynamics, breeding biology and movement patterns; and (2) protecting WwF habitat by engaging with local landowners, improving habitat quality and identifying potential threats which can be mitigated through effective conservation measures.


Steven Segang

Ingula Project Assistant

Steven is primarily tasked at conducting avifaunal surveys, guiding of visitors, and assisting with environmental awareness and education at the Ingula Nature Reserve. Steven is well qualified, holding various certificates such as a Tourist Guide Certificate from Unisa and a Community Based Natural Resource Management Certificate from the Southern African Wildlife College. Steven is passionate about bird watching.


Programme Interns

Valery Phakoago

Landscape Conservation Intern

Valery Phakoago holds an MSc in Environmental Sciences from the University of Venda, where she studied geophagic practices (consumption of earthly materials) in Sekhukhune area. Currently, Valery is in her final stages of submitting her PhD in Wildlife Conservation Physiology, at the University of the Witwatersrand, working on the ecology of aardvarks and Temminck’s pangolins in the Kalahari. Valery joined BirdLife South Africa as the 2023-2024 Landscape Conservation Intern and is responsible for assisting the Landscape Conservation Programme Manager with administrative duties including report writing, taking minutes, social media and website updates. At some point during her internship, she will assist in fieldwork and also be involved in coordinating upcoming events such a the Learn About Birds (LAB) Conference.

Marlize Muller

Conservation Biology Intern

Marlize Muller is the Conservation Biology intern under the leadership of Dr Kyle Lloyd. This internship forms part of SANBI’s Groen Sebenza Phase II Programme aiming to develop the competence and confidence of graduates in the management of biodiversity. Marlize will be primarily assisting Dr Lloyd with data processing and analysis, which forms part of a larger project to conserve the Critically Endangered White-winged Flufftail and its wetlands. Marlize is also finalising her PhD in grassland ecology which stemmed from a love of nature growing up on nature reserves.


Kyle Lloyd
Profile VP
Marlize Muller