#01 2024

Gaining personal and professional experience as an EFTEON intern

By Corrina Naidoo, DSI-HSRC Intern, EFTEON

I have a deep appreciation for the natural environment and the resources it provides for our survival. Growing up, I enjoyed spending time outdoors, taking in all the wonderful scents and sights and the feelings these evoked in me. This led to a BSc degree in Environmental Science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in Pietermaritzburg.

I went on to complete an honours degree in Biological Science at UKZN and undertook my honours research with Prof. Richard Beckett. My thesis was ‘Measuring Acclimation of Moss to Climate Change using Chlorophyll Fluorescence and ABA Pre-Treatment to Varying Heat Intensities’.

This was an exciting time in my life, I learnt many research techniques in the laboratory and in the field. I also assisted as an academic tutor during this time. It was lovely to see the undergraduates develop an interest in their field of study. After my honours, I participated in the BioBlitz for KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and contributed to the plant and invertebrate database for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

I am currently doing an internship through the Department of Science and Innovation. I am hosted at NRF-SAEON as an intern with the Expanded Freshwater and Terrestrial Environmental Observation Network (EFTEON) Research Infrastructure (RI). SAEON has a wide range of functions which include monitoring weather and atmospheric changes in respect to climate change. This is something I am very interested in as climate change has increasingly become a hot topic around the globe.

As an intern, Corrina is assisting with biodiversity monitoring in the Northern Drakensberg and in other systems in South Africa

Corrina enjoys being involved in SAEON’s citizen science projects

I am assisting with biodiversity monitoring in the Northern Drakensberg areas and in other systems in South Africa. This includes assisting with using Socio-Ecological Observatory for Studying African Woodlands (SEOSAW) protocol to measure trees and lower vegetation in Kimberley at the Benfontein Reserve, in Maputaland and in the Spioenkop Nature Reserve. These measurements will provide insights into how these systems respond to a driver such as climate change, CO2 fertilisation and harvesting.

Monitoring the effect of fire on spiders 

I will also manage a long-term project on the social spider found at the Spioenkop Nature Reserve, monitoring the effect of fire on the mortality rate of Stegodyphus mimosarum and Stegodyphus dumicola. This study was done 23 years ago in the same reserve and now that the fire management regime has changed, I would like to understand what effect this has on spiders as a sample species for other sedentary invertebrates.

I also enjoy being involved in SAEON’s citizen science projects, educating the locals about science and trying to improve farming methods using the data collected through the weather station instruments.

As an intern I will involve myself in many other projects and workshops to absorb as much knowledge as possible for my future in science. I aim to complete a master’s degree and continue in a career of scientific research and conservation. I am excited about my internship at SAEON. I know that I will be able to gain both academic and personal experience and knowledge in an organisation such as this.