Celebrating Women in Conservation: Dr Martine Jordaan
August is Women’s Month in South Africa and we’ve been speaking to some of the remarkable women at CapeNature about their love for conservation. Meet Dr Martine Jordaan, Fauna Ecologist at CapeNature.
Q What did you do before you started your current job at CapeNature?
A I was a full time student at the Zoology Department at Stellenbosch University studying towards a PhD degree in environmental toxicology.
Q What prompted your interest in a career in conservation?
A I have been passionate about nature and enjoyed being outdoors from a young age. My postgraduate work in environmental toxicology made me feel increasingly concerned about human impacts on the environment, especially in aquatic ecosystems. This made me want to work in a position where I could use my skills and knowledge to raise awareness of the impacts that we as people have on the environment and the need to collectively work towards creating a sustainable future.
Q What is your typical day like?
A It’s challenging to define a typical day. Office days have their fair share of administrate tasks along with more academic work related to contributing to management plans, reviewing permit applications, developing monitoring protocols, planning field trips, interpreting data and writing scientific reports and papers. A typical day as a field biologist consists of usually getting up early, locating sampling sites (which sometimes include getting lost or getting the vehicle stuck…), engaging with landowners or reserve staff, setting nets, identifying and measuring fish, collecting DNA and voucher specimens and providing training to other field staff if needed.
Q What is the most interesting aspect of your job?
A Definitely fieldwork and especially doing joint surveys with collaborators such as the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity.
Q Can you tell us about a few highlights/stand out incidents from your job?
A Around 2010 I was involved in doing field surveys with DENC in the Oorlogskloof which is a small canyon near Nieuwoudtville. The reserve manager at the time had clearly over-estimated the fitness and technical abilities of some field staff as he did not worry about access routes and paths, we were rock-hopping and clambering up pretty crazy inclines in 35 degree heat all while carrying hiking packs and tons of field equipment. Another incident involved setting and retrieving gill nets at night in the Gouritz River armed only with a head torch and no flashlight…I won’t go into the finer details but can say I now have new respect for those early adventurers who navigated using the stars to find their way around…
Q What advice would you have for a young person who wants to follow in your footsteps?
A Know that hard work is a prerequisite for success but not a guarantee of it. Always work as hard as you can and never expect of anyone to do anything that you yourself is not prepared to do. Find a good mentor and heed their advice, but also believe in yourself and your own abilities.
Thanks for those insightful and inspiring words, Martine.