Staff Spotlight: Lisa Nupen

Lecturer and Researcher


Lisa is an evolutionary biologist with strong interests in marine ecology, vertebrate behaviour, wildlife disease, and conservation genetics. She has worked on a variety of vertebrate taxa, primarily seabirds, reptiles, and primates.

What is your favorite travel memory?

I love the ocean and have spent lots of time snorkeling and SCUBA-diving in southern Africa. A few years ago in Mozambique, I was lucky enough to encounter whale sharks while free-diving. Their immense size and gentle grace in the water was mind-bending and deeply humbling. It was magical to spend a few minutes alone with them in the water. More recently, I visited Madagascar and saw leaf-tailed geckos for the first time – they are the best animals in the world!

How does your role have a positive impact on the experience of international students on your program?

I think that the most adventurous, enthusiastic and driven students choose to come to South Africa for their semester abroad. We spend a lot of time together and learn from each other throughout the 100-day programme. I hope that being here teaches students effective problem-solving skills, instills an authentic appreciation for nature and ecology and that they can accomplish anything if they are determined to do it!

What do you enjoy most about working with international students?

I enjoy witnessing the astounding transformations that take place during their time in South Africa. For many students, their semester abroad is their first extended period away from home, and they learn important things about themselves, and about the world around them.

I love the diversity of views and fresh ideas that arise during fieldwork and class discussions. We have interesting discussions around the fire about conservation, music, culture, philosophy and travel. Staying connected to the “hip” world of 20-somethings is also fun and invigorating. I often joke that I am a lecturer, doctor, driver, and parent all rolled into one person!

What makes your program a great place to study abroad?

South Africa is amazing! And our course is a real opportunity to challenge yourself and experience true transformative learning. We visit a great variety of sites, from big oceans to big mountains, and of course, big-five country.

You will certainly be out of your comfort zone for at least some of the time – which is when the best kind of learning happens. However, you are always safe and accompanied by attentive staff – which makes this a uniquely great environment for personal and academic growth. We try to remove tension and competition from the learning space and encourage creativity and agency.

What makes Kruger National Park a great place to study abroad?

Kruger National Park is a great place to learn about conservation in Africa because it has an excellent track record of putting conservation science into practice.

Our research projects feed into the real-world management of the Park and we assist conservation authorities with wildlife monitoring and research throughout the 100-day programme. This means that our work is valuable, and we hold students to high standards.

This is an academically demanding program, which will challenge you at every level – but it is made easier by the fact that you are immersed in wild spaces – waking up to game-drives and elephants and falling asleep to the sounds of hyenas and bush-babies. You will never be bored!

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in creating an excellent experience for study abroad students?

I don’t think that we can “create” an experience for students – the effort they put in is what really makes a course great. We can facilitate learning and personal growth by providing a safe space that is conducive – through exposing students to other ways of life and to new experiences.

Studying abroad should help you broaden your knowledge about the world, reflect on your place in it and (re)consider your worldview.

Accomplishing this is a collaboration with each new class.