My interest in environmental science likely originated from my childhood growing up in francophone Central Africa with conservation biologist parents. However, I only learned to appreciate the subject once I took an environmental science class. From a young age, I explored the tropical forest and questioned the complexity of the world around me. The fact that I can translate my love for the environment and for learning into a career path empowers and motivates me to work towards a more sustainable future. I want to continue my studies in environmental science so I may be part of the solution to today’s problems caused by climate change.
How do complex living systems evolve from nothing? What roles do human dynamics play in earth’s changing natural systems? These are questions that captivate me. Taking AP biology gave me the skills needed to understand complex science, to question everything around me, and to formulate my own experiments. Such as when we were tasked to formulate a question about photosynthesis and what factors affect its rate, or learning how intricate the human body functions are and how complex features arose. My Forensic Science and Astronomy courses taught me to interpret and use data to arrive at effective conclusions. Analysing crime scenes and blood spatter patterns to determine where the gun shots came from, or distinguishing between white or red dwarf stars challenge me in the best way. My Innovation, Design and Technology class taught me that sustainable and ecologically friendly solutions aren’t always complex. For example, simply installing transparent trash cans on campus had a positive impact on the recycling compliance of students too rushed to look into bins. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of my AP Environmental Science, I began learning about what truly excites me- the interconnectedness of natural systems. In just one example, my populations lesson indicated that everything around us isn’t just chemistry and physics. It is also social sciences, geography, and much more.
Similar to Alfred Wallace and Charles Darwin, I went on adventures of discovery to better understand the world around me. Not to find the next big scientific discovery, but to experience fieldwork, and to see if it is for me. I volunteered at the Tuli Block Farm in Botswana, a wildlife conservation area. I mended fences that elephants destroyed, dug water holes, walked anti-poaching patrols and scored camera trap data. I also volunteered at a research and ecotourism site in the rainforest of the Republic of Congo where I was exposed to scientific field research and theory. I assisted a researcher who has dedicated her life to understanding western lowland gorilla behaviour. I collected root samples to be analysed as part of the study to understand what benefit these small and apparently nutrient-poor tubercles have for the gorillas who spend hours digging for them. I also saw first hand how increasingly important technology is becoming in wildlife studies, as I was tasked with collecting video from the vast network of camera traps. However, I really got giddy when I observed stranger-than-fiction natural phenomena such as the “zombie ant” with its Cordyceps fungus protruding out of its head or observing first hand (and feeling the painful bite!) the symbiotic relationship between Barteria fistulosa trees and Tetraponera ants. These trips to different habitats--savanna shrubland and tropical rainforest--helped me experience different ecosystems and left me with more questions than when I started, fueling me to learn more every day.
I speak French fluently because I attended French schools for most of my life. However, halfway through tenth grade, I moved to the American International School of Cape Town, which was the right decision for me. Although shifting from French to American education styles was a difficult transition, for the first time I was able to choose from a list of electives and this was a game-changer. Despite struggling academically for a term, I loved my subjects and I came back on top, winning the Academic Excellence in environmental science award and earning honour roll 3 times. It was a big lesson for me, accepting bumps in life but coming back from them stronger, giving me confidence to adapt to changes and learn the value of perseverance.
Throughout high school, I was drawn to environmental and social causes. I’m a founding member of my school’s environmental committee whose purpose is to raise awareness about climate change and changes behaviours through service projects and education. We performed beach clean-ups, installed compost systems, and created eco-boards to inspire young learners. I enjoy helping and teaching children about the things I am passionate about. I tutored children in english, math, and science, which has reinforced my communication skills. I volunteered at the Goedgedacht Trust, to provide school children from impoverished communities with safe spaces to play, explore, and grow. I spent ten days engaging with children, helping them with their schoolwork, and exploring their hopes and dreams: things all children deserve but that few children from these communities actually experience. Additionally, I cared for animals as a volunteer at the domestic animal rescue group. Participating in these activities has helped me fulfil my sense of community and belonging.
I enjoy horses and have been an equestrian show jumper for 6 years. I also relish opportunities to be creative and entrepreneurial. I created, marketed and sold slime (Slimes_capetown on Instagram) to my peers. Although a short-lived business, it reinforced my problem-solving skills. All of these experiences taught me to set goals and be responsible, important skills in science and research.
Through my personal experiences, my eyes are open to the challenges, difficulties, and rewards associated with conservation. Growing up in a multicultural environment, participating in the right courses, and having incredible volunteer experiences, aided with my adaptability, will help me thrive within an international environmental science research programme. I cannot wait to embark on my future journeys and learn so much more about this world, and the challenges to be faced.