The SAYAS Bloggers for 2015 are:
I was born and raised on an Island (Sicily) in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea and I’ve always lived along the shore. I have worked for many years for WWF and in those years I have been lucky enough to be involved with many projects related to the marine environment. In 2009, I moved to Australia to face the Ocean for the first time. In that moment, I realised that despite my great passion and knowledge of the marine ecosystem, there was much more for me to discover.
In 2013, I started a research project at the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology and University of Cape Town. The project started as MSc and I have recently upgraded to a PhD. My research focuses on the links between pelagic fish and seabirds. Thanks to this research, I’ve been living on remote islands for long periods of time, which has given me the opportunity to develop my interest in not only seabirds, but marine conservation as a whole. Ongoing efforts are needed to protect and preserve our marine ecosystems from being damaged and I strongly believe that public outreach has an important role to play in it.
I was born and bred in Cameroon, West Africa, where I matriculated before travelling to South Africa to pursue undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Zoological Sciences. During my Honours degree, I was awarded a bursary to travel to the sub-Antarctic Marion Island and research on physiological responses to temperature changes of two of the island’s spider species. Mingling with the expedition team full of accomplished scientists greatly improved my research skills and helped me see the bigger picture: every living organism counts!
My MSc was a buildup on my physiological foundation: I investigated responses to heat traits, including climate change effects on distribution patterns of the invasive Argentine ant. And now for my PhD, I have moved to something much bigger than invertebrates – bat-eared foxes (aka batties). Batties are the only canids that feed almost exclusively on invertebrates. My focus is on maternal care and factors that contribute to stress levels in females, given that pregnancy and lactation are likely to increase nutritional needs. Therefore, exploring their feeding habits (amongst other things), is high up on the cards for me. Now that we’ve established that invertebrates are here to stay, a blend of entomological and mammalian research for a postdoc degree is the way forward for me.
As a curious little girl I pulled leaves apart to see how they worked, memorised Latin names of animals for fun and used my paintbrush to pollinate flowers. I’ve always been enthralled by Nature’s ingenuity, so pursuing a career in natural science seemed an obvious choice. After countless test papers, assignments and a Master’s thesis I needed a break! Science was wonderfully challenging but I struggled to see how I could use all the academic learning to make a difference. So I set out to find “meaning”. After a detour through Radio-ville, the journey led me to the Sustainability Institute. Here I found the point where Science meets Purpose: biomimicry. Sometimes called “bio-inspired innovation,” biomimicry is an emerging scientific discipline that studies Nature’s design principles in order to find sustainable solutions for human challenges. This ‘a-ha’ moment motivated me to return to the laboratory where I now study the complex world of bacterial biofilms in order to contribute to our understanding of Life’s genius. And that’s how the curious little girl became a biomimetic biochemist with a passion for sustainability, environmental education and science communication.
Yonela Zifikile Njisane
I am a PhD student at the University of Fort Hare, Alice, Eastern Cape. I was born into a big family and grew up in Flagstaff, a small rural town in the Eastern Cape, where I completed my early schooling. Straight after high school (in Harding, KZN) I enrolled at the University of Fort Hare where I obtained my BSc (2011) and MSc Agric (2013) degrees before launching into a PhD in Agriculture (Animal Science) at the same institution. My love for research, and eagerness to learn and strong belief in empowerment through education motivated my decision to start a PhD. For me, this is the only way to attain the greatness I have always dreamed and hoped to achieve for myself and my family. It is a legacy that can never be lost. My current research focuses on animal welfare and meat science, particularly beef cattle behaviour relating it to meat production. I am looking to further animal behaviour and welfare research, merging it with community engagement in a broader spectrum and different species around South Africa and Africa as a whole.