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SAEON Fynbos Node highlights career opportunities for learners


Node intern Michelle Malan tells learners about the different SAEON nodes and the functions of each


Dr Jasper Slingsby explains how catchments are monitored


The Fynbos Node exhibition was set up outside the presentation venue for inquiring minds to explore


Technician Abri de Buys responds to questions from the learners

By Elvirena Coetzee, Administrator, SAEON Fynbos Node


The SAEON Fynbos Node participated in the South African National Biodiversity Institute’s Biodiversity Career Day on 6 March. Thirteen schools from across Cape Town were hosted at the Kirstenbosch Centre for Biodiversity Conservation and Research. A total of 188 learners and 13 teachers attended the event.

The Fynbos Node was one of sixteen organisations presenting information on the wide range of careers available in conservation and research. We set out to highlight the different careers in research by profiling the Fynbos Node staff members, their qualifications and their contributions to the node and to SAEON as an organisation.

With a tight, well-organised morning schedule to engage 188 senior high school learners, in small groups, the team needed endurance. The total time allocation of fourteen minutes per school set a fast pace to allow for presentations, questions and interaction with the weather station. We gave the learners a brief overview of SAEON before focusing on one of the Fynbos Node’s main projects in the Jonkershoek catchment area.

Dr Jasper Slingsby explained the need for, and value of fynbos compared to the destructive alien pine trees found in many regions in the Cape. This topical and relevant subject proved to be an especially interesting approach. With National Water Week starting on 17 March, Jasper’s short presentation of the node’s monitoring and data collection at the Jonkershoek catchment weirs highlighted water as a scarce and precious commodity.

Weather station

Outside the presentation room was a fully constructed weather station which node technician Abri de Buys had set up the day before and which enabled learners to see the indoor readings from a laptop. Abri set out to show how each part of the weather station functioned, simulating rain and wind, and showed real-time data delivery, followed by a brief explanation of how data is calibrated.

Michelle Malan, node intern, briefed the learners on the various areas of study available and presented information on SAEON and its staff members. Shortly after the second school group had departed, the building experienced a power outage due to Eskom’s load shedding. Left without the use of their well put-together PowerPoint presentation, Michelle and Jasper impressed with their creativity and took to free-hand drawing on paper to illustrate concepts.

I grabbed the opportunity with an unspecialised school (that does not specialise in maths and science) to highlight the fact that whatever their post-school exit point may be, learners can connect their love for the environment with their individual skill-set and academic qualification to find their niche and career within the field of conservation and research. Linking to life skills, it was important to highlight that it is individual roles that all somehow overlap and interconnect to ensure the success of a project in the long run.

Gift for educators

The educators accompanying each group received a goodie bag which included the SAEON publication Observations on Environmental Change in South Africa as a classroom resource for learners.

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