Since the age of 10, I’ve been involved in numerous conservation and research projects all over South Africa.
Interest started to build when I was living in Cape Town, right outside one of the Cape’s most important wetland reserves: Rondevlei Nature Reserve.
What started out as a passion for birdwatching quickly grew into a love of nature and a desire to study the environment. This led to a keen eye and, a I’m told, a very powerful sense of observation.
1992 to 1997
By the age of 12 I was a pro birdwatcher and a favoured companion to my [much] older chaperones. I was armed not with field glasses, but something much more valuable; 20/10 vision.
I could spot a bush rustling a hundred meters away, seconds before my binocular-aided compatriots even noticed a thing. Seconds may not seem a lot but this is equivalent to light years when spotting wildlife. I travelled all over South Africa as a teenager with the Cape Bird Club and attended courses by the most celebrated South African birdwatchers of the decade; Phil Hockey, Geoff Lockwood and Kenneth Newman to name a few.
In 1994 I was named honorary ranger at Rondevlei Nature Reserve and worked closely with the reserve’s environmental education officer to learn a set of skills that any teenager would only dream of. First, a crash course in taxidermy – a Cape Robin-Chat that had broken its neck as my first specimen. Next, botanising – there was so much to learn about the Cape Floristic Region. Proteaceae, Ericaceae, Restionaceae.
I mastered it.
Studying pollinators seemed the next logical step, and a keen interest quickly turned from observation to a career in entomology.
1997 to 2001
By 1997 I’d been collecting insects for at least three years, using international standards to kill, pin and mount each specimen. Again, I was lucky enough to call some of the best entomologists at the University of Cape Town [Associate Professor Mike D. Picker] and the South African Museum [Dr Simon van Noort, Margie Cochrane and Dawn Larsen] mentors.
2001 to present
By 2001 I’d become a highly skilled self-trained entomologist and started curating and collecting for a bunch of nature reserves in the greater Cape Town area and running an annual course in entomology for students graduating from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
Today my skills as an entomologist are being put to use in a private capacity as I continue to work as a generalist.
Follow some of the research projects we’re involved in here, and if you’re keen to get involved yourself, read about our volunteer/lifestyle programme.