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Sharing my scientific research on a national platform

By Courtnay Davids, a learner in the SAEON Egagasini outreach programme

In September this year, I travelled to Phalaborwa in Limpopo Province to attend the SAEON education outreach symposium hosted by the Ndlovu Node. For me, this symbolised a different journey altogether – one in which hard work and determination to complete my scientific project, Acidic Grip, culminated in the opportunity to give a stellar presentation on a national platform.

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Courtnay explains the effects of low pH on zooplankton to a packed audience at SAEON’s science education outreach symposium (Picture: Joe Sibiya)

Selection process

The methodologies used to select individual learners to present at the SAEON symposium are based on the projects entered into the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists. I formed part of the outreach activities of SAEON’s Egagasini Node, which is located in Cape Town and focuses on marine science. Based on the merits of my project, which deals with the effects of low pH on zooplankton, a key issue in marine science, I was chosen to represent the node.

‘Acidic Grip’

My project is based on the question: What is the effect of ocean acidification on the marine ecosystems? To be more specific: What is the effect of a low-pH environment on the zooplankton species euphasiid?

This study is used to demonstrate the dangers and impacts of ocean acidification. Key questions that spark such an in-depth and high-level investigation are: What is the ocean’s worth? What price do we put on oceanic biodiversity? Can we picture a world without oceans? And, from a climate change perspective: Can we afford losing our oceans?

The symposium

My task was simple - I had to prepare a presentation about my project and research experiences. It was also enjoyable, as I find it very rewarding to be involved in a project that so few people know about, yet is based on so many key questions in the greater scheme of things.

My experiences

The symposium allowed me to experience so many firsts - my first flight, my first visit to the Kruger National Park; meeting new people whilst interacting with a snake named Felixy. But the greatest of all is having advanced to yet another eye-opening area of my project, making this seem like the start of a new chapter in its development. All the lessons learnt and time that has gone into this project succeeded in motivating me to continue exploring this avenue.

In closing

Of all the things I’ve learnt and taken away from this experience, the three I treasure most are to persevere when things get tough, be humble when you succeed and respect the situations you are placed in. Another definite advantage is that my presentation skills have improved by leaps and bounds.

I would like to thank all the individuals and organisations that have allowed me to prosper. A special word of thanks goes to my mentor, Mr Thomas Mtontsi of the SAEON Egagasini Node; Mr R Engelbrecht, the Physical Sciences Subject Advisor and Coordinator of the S.O.S (Science in Our Schools) project; and Mrs S Noordien, Life Sciences educator and Eskom Expo facilitator.

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