Words by Petru Saal
Experts in the bio-diversity field came to encourage science students to consider the career prospects they might follow should they continue with their degrees. The talk was initiated by the University’s Career Lounge to make students aware of the various career fields that they can pursue within bio-diversity.
Dr Helen James, from the Department of Freshwater Invertebrates says that as a freshwater entomologist most of her work is museum based that includes field work and working in the labs in addition to writing scientific papers. James says that by far the most exciting part of her job is when she encounters new species. “As a freshwater entomologist you get to describe and name new plant and insect species”. She told the students in order to thrive in this career you need to have an interest in the outdoors, particularly as a freshwater entomologist you need to have a love for water animals. James says that because there is a great shortage of freshwater entomologists, she gets to travel in Africa and abroad. Rhodes University is the only University in South Africa who has a freshwater research programme.
Albany Museum Entomologist, Dr John Midgley said that for any science career you need to have a desire to know more. “You need to have a desire to do research coupled with an interest in animals. It is about finding a knowledge gap and filling that gap”. Midgley says that he enjoys the interaction with animal species and the opportunity to discover strange species excites him. “There is more bird diversity than mammal diversity and this diversity allows you to fill so many niches”. Midgley says that he loves the feeling of contributing to the advancement of society. “It is an incredible feeling knowing that you created knowledge people can use. The generation of knowledge improves society. You get to find out things that no one has known before”. Rhodes University is the only university in South Africa that offers a full year credit in Entomology.
Palaeobotanist, Dr Rose Prevec told students that there is shortage of Palaeobotanists in South Africa. Only 40-50 people are currently employed in this field in the country. “It is a multidisciplinary field that requires imagination and creativity and a sense of adventure,” says Prevec. Prevec says that because of the shortage of skills in this field, the last person to be in the field she currently works in was 30 years ago. Many people are not aware of Palaeobotany as a career option and therefore choose to pursue the more popular Palaeontology route. “Finding fossils in the field is the most thrilling experience and it is a great honour in naming new species”.