Just Getting Started
As I reflect back on my time as an intern with the Nature’s Valley Trust, it's shocking how fast it went, and just as unbelievable how much could be packed into 90 days. The warm welcome I received on my first night was felt throughout my time in the Valley, where I was witness to how much of a large-scale positive impact a small, local, organization can have.
From day one I was on the beach, learning animal tracks and survey techniques, assisting in the ringing of birds, and holding eggs with peeping chicks inside them (of course under supervision from an amazing team of mentors). I primarily worked on the Trust’s Share the Shores project and White-fronted Plover research. This meant most days were spent on one of four research sites (i.e. Some of the most pristine beaches I have ever had the pleasure of walking on) where we searched for our White-fronted Plovers and their predators; collected data on their nests, eggs, and behavior; and conducted questionnaires to examine and increase public awareness of the project and the Plovers’ plight.
While the Plover research was my main priority, each day with NVT held a new experience to take advantage of. Flower walks, fish netting, marine debris surveys, raptor ringing, school camps; the list goes on, and all of that could have just been a week's schedule!
Of course it wasn't all sunshine and baby birds. Try spending 10 hours on a boat for a sea survey, while sea sick. Those amazing sunrise-on-the-beach photos? They mark the beginning of a field day; typically starting at first light (which on some mornings was 5am or earlier) and involving kilometers and kilometers of walking in varying weather conditions. And after all those tiring, but (mostly) wonderful hours on the beach, it was back to the office to enter all of the new data and check what had already been entered.
But that fact that this was not a ‘sugar coated’ experience is one of the things I liked most about my internship. I learned more about the realities of conservation science than I ever could have imagined; gaining valuable skills for the field, the office, and for communicating with the public. I also learned a lot about myself as a person, a student, and a scientist - realizations that I can use when making future decisions about my educational and career goals.
This experience has confirmed for me my passion and ability to participate in many aspects of conservation, and while my time in South Africa has come to an end for now, I know I am just getting started on my journey.
So I think all that's left to say is thank you to Mark, Selena, Kellyn, Brittany, Craig, and Kirwan; I will cherish the memories I made during my time as part of the NVT team.