Collaboration & evaluation: ocean research


Nathalie Viljoen
Dr. Nathalie Viljoen is the Head of Research at the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation. She has worked for the Two Oceans Aquarium for many years and has now taken over the Aquarium Foundation’s research activities. She oversees all of the various research projects that the Aquarium and Foundation are involved in and acts as a mentor to our research interns.

The Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, South Africa, has been involved in marine research throughout its 24-year existence. With the establishment of the non-profit Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation, the Aquarium intends to grow its research capacity significantly and the Foundation be recognised as an aquatic research centre. 

We, with resource support from the Two Oceans Aquarium, aim to further strengthen the collaboration with higher education institutions such as the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the University of the Western Cape. These collaborations focus on hands-on marine sciences skills developments in the fields of marine animal husbandry and health, welfare and conservationFurthermore, through these collaborations the internal research outcomes have increased and will continue to grow. We and the Aquarium also support various external research projects in key research topics, such as: 

Biodiversity conservation | Marine parasitology | Penguin biology | Sea jelly cnidology | Sea turtle conservation | Shark and ray elasmobranchology | Veterinary methods | Microplastics 


WIL students assisting with the daily work at the Two Oceans Aquarium.

We host post-graduate students annuallythrough partnerships with higher education institutes such as the University of Cape Town and Rhodes UniversityFurthermore, partnerships with like-minded non-profit organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund South Africa (WWF-SA) and the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA), the Aquarium and the Foundation are able to provide unemployed students, in the form of internships, the opportunity to grow their marine sciences technical skills in marine animal husbandry and health, welfare and conservationThese are skills that will enhance their employability in careers related to the marine environment.  

Our conservation programmes, such as the turtle rescue, rehabilitation and release programme and the marine wildlife management programme in the V&A Waterfront, are linked to ongoing research projectsOur research is regularly presented at international conferences and gatherings.  

Our research department aims to contribute to the building of human capacity in the marine biological and conservation sciences that would assist Africa in not only increasing the quality of research outputs of its academic community, but also strengthen global partnerships for research and conservation. Furthermore, we aim to evaluate our education programmes to ensure quality impactful environmental education that will not only connect more people to the ocean but also improve the understanding of the role and impact of the ocean in our lives. In this way more people participate in the protection and conservation of our precious marine resources. 

Current research activities include: 

Injured and stranded sea turtle health treatments post release tracking | Micro and macro plastic pollution in the waters surrounding the Two Oceans Aquarium in Table Bay Harbour | Jellyfish lifecycles and biology | Monitoring and evaluation of marine education and conservation programmes