Taryn Joshua-Kuntz joined SAEON’s Elwandle Node in June last year. As coordinator of the Shallow Marine and Coastal Research Infrastructure* (SMCRI), Taryn’s main responsibility is to work with the Elwandle Node’s management team to ensure the smooth running and business continuity of the research infrastructure.
This includes contract management, supply chain management, business administration, logistical arrangements, maintaining internal and external stakeholder relationships, public awareness and promotion of the research infrastructure, asset management and assisting with human resources.
SAEON eNews sat down with Taryn to learn more about her multi-faceted work at SMCRI.
Q What attracted you to this key position at the Shallow Marine and Coastal Research Infrastructure?
I have a passion for marine and coastal research, and having had some previous knowledge of SAEON, and especially the activities of the Elwandle Node, I immediately jumped at the opportunity to apply when I saw the position advertised. I believed that this post would prove quite challenging and allow me to make use of every bit of experience I had gained. That, together with what I had read up on SAEON, SMCRI and the requirements for this post, made me really excited at the prospect of joining SMCRI.
The past ten months have been an interesting experience and I am thoroughly enjoying my work.
Q Did you have any prior experience of SAEON’s shallow marine and coastal research projects?
I first heard of SAEON in the practical year of my nature conservation undergraduate studies. Based at the Kruger National Park, I was involved in a biodiversity monitoring survey conducted by the Ndlovu Node. I had the best time and learnt so much about long-term monitoring and why it is so important.
I became involved in marine and coastal research while working as an intern at the Oceans and Coasts branch of the (then) Department of Environmental Affairs in Cape Town in the Western Cape province. It was during this time that the marine and coastal research “bug” bit and I decided to pursue my masters in marine benthic ecology.
I gained further knowledge of SAEON while working as a lecturer in the Department of Conservation and Marine Sciences at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), where I met SAEON associates from the Egagasini Node through the Marine Science Advisory Board and the Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) panel. I gained further knowledge of the SAEON Elwandle Node and shallow marine and coastal research when my husband (then boyfriend), Werner Kuntz, was appointed as a junior oceanographic technician at the node.
When I later moved to Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape to be with him, I jumped at opportunities to join in on field trips whenever I could.
Q SMCRI was established to develop an array of instruments and physical research platforms around the coast of South Africa and its sub-Antarctic Islands. You are based at the SAEON Elwandle Node in Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape. Does your work involve a great deal of travel to the various platforms, some in remote locations?
At this stage, I haven’t been required to travel to any of the other platforms as most of my work can be done remotely out of the Central Coordinating Unit at the Elwandle Node. However, with the roll out of the larger sentinel sites into the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, I may be called upon to attend larger meetings and have greater involvement at the other platforms.
Q Have you worked in a research infrastructure environment before?
No, I had no prior knowledge of research infrastructures, but I have since gained a thorough understanding of their value and benefits.
Q You have an MTech in Nature Conservation from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). Your MTech thesis investigated spatial variability of macro-benthic invertebrate assemblages in the Kogelberg region, focusing on the Betty’s Bay Marine Protected Area. How do you see this conservation-science-technology interface you have been exposed to being of benefit to your work in your new position?
The work done by SAEON greatly informs the conservation community and, with SMCRI being one of the Department of Science and Innovation’s research infrastructures, the research conducted by SMCRI scientists is required to be innovative and inclusive of the marine science community and conservation bodies. Prior background knowledge and contacts and relationships developed within the field has provided me with a solid foundation to work and build upon. This allows me to understand the resources required more fully and offer better support to the team.
Q The SMCRI operates a science engagement platform. With your background as environmental educator at the Cape Leopard Trust, education supervisor at the Southern African National foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) and lecturer at CPUT, do you see yourself playing an active role in science engagement and education?
Yes. I try to remain involved in science engagement, conducting talks and facilitating work-shadowing opportunities for learners. Part of my role involves the promotion of SMCRI and public awareness of shallow marine and coastal research. My previous experience in environmental education and lecturing benefits me greatly in this regard as well as in general communication with stakeholders and the greater public.
Q We are approaching critical environmental limits – nationally, Africa-wide and globally. What role do you see your work at the SMCRI playing in the prevention and mitigation of climate risks and climate change?
As a research infrastructure, SMCRI is responsible for the long-term monitoring of environmental and biological variables along various sections of the coast of South Africa. This steady stream of data, as well as the research platforms, are made available to the greater marine science community and in-house scientists. Research progress reports, published and presented research on environmental changes and impacts of climate change, inform policy- and decision-makers.
Q You obviously have a hectic schedule. Does that leave any time for hobbies? If yes, what are these?
I do have a busy schedule, but I strive for a balanced life. My hobbies include outdoor activities, building puzzles, going to gym and, as a qualified companion animal behaviourist and trainer, I also thoroughly enjoy dog training and helping owners to better understand their pets.
Q Where did you grow up?
In Cape Town. My family lives there and I do get home from time to time, but I must say that the Eastern Cape has really found its way into my heart.
* The Shallow Marine and Coastal Research Infrastructure (SMCRI) is one of 14 large Research Infrastructures developed by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) as part of the South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR). The SMCRI was established in 2017 to develop an array of instruments and physical research platforms around the coast of South Africa and its sub-Antarctic Islands to collect long-term reliable data for scientific research to help decision-makers formulate appropriate environmental policies to lessen the risk and vulnerability of the coastal zone to climate and global change.
Taryn has an MTech in Nature Conservation from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Her MTech thesis investigated spatial variability of macro-benthic invertebrate assemblages in the Kogelberg region, focusing on the Betty’s Bay Marine Protected Area.
Part of Taryn’s role involves the promotion of SMCRI and public awareness of shallow marine and coastal research.
Taryn became involved in marine and coastal research while working as an intern at the Oceans and Coasts branch of the (then) Department of Environmental Affairs.
Taryn, pictured here during fieldwork with her husband and Elwandle Node colleague Werner Kuntz, has a passion for marine and coastal research.