Meet the team
Founder and Coordinator
Born in Scotland, but raised in Norfolk, England, Ally grew up surrounded by British Wildlife, learning their patterns and behaviours.
After a decade of working on conservation projects across the African continent, Ally decided that it was time for a change in conservation. This change fuelled by setting up shark research initiatives and using sustainable ecotourism to help subsidise and fund postgraduate research projects in a vital attempt at greater protection for both marine and terrestrial wildlife around Africa.
Using both practical and academic learning, Ally hopes to make a marked difference in the conservation field.
Dr sara andreotti
Chief marine biologist
Dr Sara Andreotti is a marine biologist and postdoctoral researcher working toward the development of a global long-term management system and conservation plan for great white sharks.
Born in Pordenone, Italy, Sara has been involved in the marine biology field since she was sixteen, when she first volunteered at the Natural Marine Reserve of Miramare in Trieste, Italy, where she worked as marine guide for eight years. She completed a Bachelor’s degree in Biology at Università degli Studi di Trieste (Italy), and followed this in 2008 with a Master’s degree (cum laude) in Marine Biology.
Sara then relocated to South Africa in 2009 to collaborate with world renewed shark conservationist Michael Rutzen and the country’s Department of Environmental Affairs, which led to her PhD at Stellenbosch University, completed in March 2015; her research involved genetic techniques and photographic identification to better assess the population status and dispersal events of South African white sharks. The data collection involved over 500 days at sea around the South African coastline, collecting more than 5000 photographs and 300 genetic samples, from 426 catalogued white sharks. The outcome was the first national assessment of white shark population numbers and genetic structure, and the genetic work recently expanded in an international collaboration with the University of Queensland and Flinders University (Australia).
Working with Professor Ben Herbst, a specialist in machine learning, and Dr Pieter Holtzhausen, a software engineer from the Stellenbosch University’s Applied Mathematics Department, Sara also developed an image recognition software for individual sharks, called Identifin, that compares a semi-automatically drawn trace of the back edge of the dorsal fin to existing images in a database, which is proving invaluable to the scientific community involved in marine research.
Following her passion for shark conservation, Sara continues to contribute to the development of an eco-friendly and shark-specific technology to keep swimmers and surfers safe from large predatory sharks; she is one of the four co-inventors of the SharkSafe BarrierTM, an innovation which successfully bio-mimics the visual effects of a kelp forest and combines this with a series of permanent magnetic stimuli to form a barrier that dissuades sharks from passing through, without affecting other marine life. The SharkSafe BarrierTM is currently reliant on crowdfunding and donations to test the last remaining challenge to the project: testing the barrier’s deep-sand anchorage system, to ensure efficacy on both rocky and deep-sea substrates.
Currently the Chief Operating Officer and a Director of SharkSafe Barrier (Pty) Limited, Sara divides her time between South Africa and Reunion, where the SharkSafe BarrierTM prototype is being deployed for an independent test requested by the French authorities, to resolve that island’s shark attack crisis. Since 2011 there have been 30 shark attacks in Reunion, killing 11 people. This small French island was quickly anointed the shark attack capital of world, losing a staggering 20 Million Euro in tourism revenue per year. In more than 12 months of testing, the SharkSafe BarrierTM required no maintenance on the deployed Units, while waiting on the sharks to approach the study area. The SharkSafe BarrierTM aims to be the ultimate solution for a peaceful coexistence between beach goers and large sharks, for rejuvenating both the local ecology and tourism of coastal areas.
With over 4 decades of experience diving with sharks around South Africa, Walter Bernadis and African Watersports were the ideal partners to compliment Adventure Ally in this brand new shark research initiative! Walter truly is one of the pioneers of not just shark diving but the sardine run, and Nile crocodile diving in the Okavango delta! Driven by a passion for conservation and preservation of marine life, Walter takes care of everything underwater!
Walter has been involved in numerous documentaries because of his experience, he is a keystone of our team.
Dr Mithriel Mackay
Originally from Massachusetts, Mithriel spent much of her time exploring marine and coastal environments as well and woodland areas. She received her Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology/clinical laboratory science from Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts.
Her career path continued in medicine, including actively working as a paramedic and as an instructor of advance life support classes, for almost 30 years before she returned to graduate school to earn her Master of Marine Resources Management.
While finishing her PhD in Marine Biology, she established the Marine and Coastal Ecology Research Centre in order to provide a place for students of marine science, biology and ecology to participate in research gaining valuable field experience. The coastal centre is also focused on outreach events, citizen science, and volunteer programs that provide curriculum to citizens interested in investigating marine flora, fauna and ecosystems.
Mithriel is interested in the behavioural ecology of cetaceans, with a particular interest in social structures.
Her dissertation research focuses on humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) wintering off Puerto Rico, USA. Passive acoustic monitoring, photographic identification, photogrammetry, and movement of whales. In addition to this research, she develops curriculum programs studying the ecology of Puerto Rico, and life history of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncates) in Galveston-Houston ship channels.