I became a zoologist because humans piqued my curiosity. I wanted to know why we use so many words – it’s just talk, talk, talk all the time… our evolutionary brothers and sisters are positively mute by comparison. I received my early training at Stellenbosch University and the University of Michigan, and my research “taste” has evolved over time. I am now much more excited about the animal mind than human chatter, and I established the Mammalian Cognition Research Group in at the University of the Free State’s Qwaqwa campus to come to grips with animal cognition. My students are studying bat-eared foxes in the Kalahari Desert, as well as jackals in Golden Gate Highlands National Park. I am very jealous of the time they get to spend in the field. We’re also trying to mitigate the huge problem of road kill in South Africa, with the help of the Endangered Wildlife Trust. As principal investigator of a new research group — and a mother of one future biologist (I wish!) — I am, sadly, not in the field very often.
For me, communication remains at the heart of good science. This is why I’ve launched the SAYAS blogging series, in which we invite young scientists to sharpen their communication skills and shed some light on the workings of the scientific process.