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SAEON Egagasini WIL excite you about marine science!

By Sipho Nkohla, Jordan Van Stavel and Grant Van Der Heever, SAEON Egagasini Node
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The SAEON Egagasini Node regularly hosts undergraduate students from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology through the university’s Work Integrated Learning (WIL) programme.

This usually takes place during the final component of the Marine Science course and serves as a bridging period from university into the professional environment.

In 2018, for a period of six months, I, Sipho Nkohla, was based at the Egagasini Node to conduct my WIL. During this time, I was required to complete three modules (mini projects) which included marine research (supervisors: Grant Van Der Heever and Dr Lara Atkinson), marine science (supervisors: Jordan Van Stavel and Tammy Morris) and marine science practice (supervisor: Thomas Mtontsi).

Projects

My research project involved comparing epifaunal abundance and diversity across two habitat types on the west coast of South Africa from data obtained from the 2016 and 2017 Benthic Trawl Experiment cruises. The data used for my research project consisted mainly of seafloor images taken using Egagasini’s towed benthic camera system, the Ski-Monkey III.

My marine science (instrumentation) project used the same data and looked at the application of the Sea-Bird MicroCAT CTD (high-accuracy conductivity and temperature recorder) mounted onto the Ski-Monkey III.

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Sipho Nkohla accompanies learners on a trip to Two Oceans Aquarium

Lastly, my marine science practice module involved a wide range of science engagement activities conducted throughout the WIL period. Some examples of these included my participation in National Science Week, an Ocean Observers Workshop, the Long-term Intertidal Monitoring through Participation, Evaluation and Training (LIMPET) Programme, Sea Glider introductory training, as well as marine science school camps.

Skills gained

Despite the relatively short WIL period of only six months, my time at SAEON exposed me to a variety of marine-related disciplines and allowed me to build quite an extensive skill set. These skills were gained during hands-on experiences with numerous instrumentation types, which broadened my understanding of how the instruments functioned in the field.

Through my projects I gained experience in the collection, processing and analysis of various types of data, which also included learning how to use different types of software to analyse my data (including Transect Measure© for image analysis and Ocean Data View for analysis of CTD data). The opportunities SAEON provided also assisted with improving my public speaking and presentation skills, as I was often required to present my work to diverse audiences.

The science engagement and outreach activities taught me to use the skills I have acquired to give back to society through mentoring younger learners as well as my peers. Altogether this experience proved to me that I am capable of working under pressure and achieving the deadlines that were set for me. It also taught me that time management is very important and a beneficial skill to learn.

Highlights and personal achievements

Throughout my WIL, I had truly memorable moments and experiences. The WIL experience has helped to improve my confidence and professionalism and has taught me how to transition from life on campus to the work environment.

It has also provided me with countless opportunities to share my knowledge and skills with others. Knowledge-sharing included teaching high school learners about the intertidal species inhabiting the rocky shore, helping them apply their classroom knowledge in the field during science camps and judging their science projects at the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists.

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Sipho (right) gets to share his knowledge about the intertidal species inhabiting the rocky shore with high school learners

Sipho (centre) won second prize for his overall project, as well as second prize for his marine science project

Thanks to the Ski-Monkey III’s innovative technology I was also fortunate enough to be able to see rare imagery of benthic species and ecosystems that many would never have the opportunity to see.

Acknowledgements

I would like to express my gratitude to SAEON for the opportunity, as well as for the mentorship and support I received throughout my WIL experience.

Through SAEON I was afforded a chance to work alongside a variety of scientists and technicians that made me feel at home and always encouraged me to do better. My supervisors constantly reminded me that through hard work and dedication anything is possible, and the fact that I won second prize for my overall project, as well as second prize for my Marine Science project, is a testament to that.

SAEON Egagasini has provided me with memories and experiences that I will never forget. I look forward to SAEON’s involvement in my future career endeavours.

Conclusion

SAEON Egagasini would like to wish Sipho Nkohla well with his future studies. We encourage him to pursue his BTech and would like to remind him that with hard work and dedication anything is possible!

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