Meet the Team

Policy and Advocacy


Dr Melissa Lewis

Policy and Advocacy Programme Manager

Melissa is responsible for overseeing and coordinating BirdLife South Africa’s policy and advocacy work. She works closely with government, other NGOs, and a variety of other stakeholders with a view to ensuring that birds and their habitats are properly considered in policy- and decision-making in South Africa, other African countries, and at the international level. Melissa represents BirdLife South Africa on the national Lead (Pb) Task Team, the Offshore Operations Stakeholder Forum and its Environmental Working Group, and the national White-winged Flufftail Working Group. She also sits on the BirdLife Partnership’s Multilateral Environmental Agreement (MEA) Coordination Group and African Site Casework and Emerging Threats Taskforce (ASCET), and is the Coordinator of the International Working Group for the Lesser Flamingo. She holds a Master’s degree in Environmental and Natural Resources Law from Lewis and Clark Law School in the United States and a PhD in this field from Tilburg University in the Netherlands. Prior to joining BirdLife South Africa, she had worked as a researcher, lecturer and consultant – specialising in international nature conservation law and its implementation through domestic legislation. Her interest in bird conservation was cultivated by serving a ten-year term on the Technical Committee of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), and part of her current work focuses on improving implementation of AEWA and other international treaties in African countries.

Kirsten Day

Kirsten Day

Advocacy Officer

Kirsten works part-time for the Policy and Advocacy Programme. She is responsible for coordinating many of BirdLife South Africa’s responses to development applications and authorisations which threaten priority species and habitats. She also contributes to BirdLife South Africa’s inputs on relevant legal and policy developments, and to the development and dissemination of various position statements and guidance documents.


Sam Ralston-Paton

Birds and Renewable Energy Project Manager

Samantha works with government, the renewable energy industry, environmental assessment practitioners, consulting bird specialists and academics to help renewable energy develop in harmony with nature. She has her MSc in Conservation Biology and over 13 years’ experience in environmental management. She is passionate about environmental sustainability, and enjoys challenging herself, and other people, to have a more positive impact on the planet.