Inspiring a new generation of marine scientists
Grindrod recently assisted in hosting a three-day science session for Wildlands Ocean Stewards during which they were exposed to top marine biologists and scientists. Wildlands is a socio-economic development initiative which receives support from Grindrod, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the National Research Foundation (NRF) and others.
The project aims to catalyse the emergence of a strong new cohort of offshore marine scientists and conservationists. By providing marine science students with an experiential journey that gives them unique insights into marine conservation, it aims to inspire them to pursue careers in marine science and environmental management.
The Wildlands initiative takes students on the oceanic research vessel Angra Pequena, and provides them with hands-on practical experience. The Ocean Stewards engage in related activities that broaden their understanding of the scope of marine skills and science opportunities, major threats to the marine environment and practical solutions to challenges.
Over the past six months the Ocean Stewards have participated in beach, harbour and reef clean-ups, attended key marine science and management forums (World Whale Conference, South African Marine Science Symposium, African Marine Waste Conference), contributed to national ocean acidification data collection on World Ocean Day, engaged with the public with an interactive information display at the KZN Whale Festival, and contributed to other development projects (such as evaluating Whale Time tour-guides at the Maritime Museum and engaging with schoolchildren aboard the Angra Pequena during a Sail Africa event). They were also given the opportunity to have a swimming lesson prior to the research cruise, as many Ocean Stewards from disadvantaged backgrounds cannot swim.
Since the inception of the project in 2015, 36 final-year students, 15 Honours students and six Masters students have participated in the programme. In the 2017 post-evaluation exercise, the 2015 and 2016 Ocean Stewards said that the initiative equipped students with a total of 14 different skills including communication, deckhand work and numerous sampling skills.
Contributors: Jean Harris (Wild Oceans) and Marietjie Brown (Grindrod Sustainability Professional)