I grew up in Africa as the son of two ecologists and as a result was constantly surrounded by nature and environmentally oriented work. This developed my passion for the environment and the want to protect it. Before I started my BSc I went on trip to Namibia to find out whether conservation was what I wanted to do. I fell in love with the country and have been back twice during my degree. While out there I became more and more aware of the need for community involvement and the rural development side of conservation, and my passion grew in this area. I was also exposed to animal tracking while there and my curiosity for one of the most ancient forms of understanding the environment in a scientific way flourished. As my curiosity grew I became aware of the wealth of knowledge indigenous communities have on the environment and the potential for this to contribute to conservation management and in turn provide a tangible benefit to rural communities.
I then had the chance to stay in Bwabwata National Park in Namibia to conduct the research for undergraduate dissertation. Bwabwata National Park is home to ~6000 Khwe San individuals, one of the main San groups in Northern Namibia. The San are renowned for their expertise in tracking and I wanted to explore aspects of their knowledge that may benefit conservation management within the park. It was here that I had one of my most memorable experiences.
I joined a tracker training exercise held for community members in the park and was tested by the trainer. I managed to succeed in identifying quite a number of tracks. I felt a sense of achievement very different to learning in a ‘lecture based’ setting.
My future plans are to complete an MSc and PhD on transboundary protected areas and community based conservation, incorporating indigenous knowledge and hopefully some aspects of outreach and education. I don’t know exactly where I want to go yet but either way hope to become a teacher of what I learn and hopefully make an impact.