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Chantelle Pretorius

2021 Intern

WWF intern Chantelle Pretorius is building her career as a molecular conservation biologist. Her internship position at the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) has given her the opportunity to get into the field while putting her academic knowledge and passion for conservation into practice. She is based at the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria. As a Geneticist intern, her tasks at the zoo include assisting with laboratory-based work such as DNA extractions and other genetic-related duties, as well as research and overseeing the daily operations of the lab.

Chantelle has a Master’s degree in Environmental Science which she obtained from North-West University.

We asked her to give us more insight into her career dreams and goals:

What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about studying and teaching others about conservation. Taking care of the environment is more important than ever. With global habitat destruction and the associated loss of biodiversity, I feel that we – as biologists and environmental scientists – are in a position to educate people about the importance of the natural world. I also believe that it is our responsibility to do as much research about the environment as we can so that we can gain a better understanding of how the natural world works.

What inspired your choice of study?
From a young age, my parents used to take me to the ocean. On our trips to Durban, we also visited the KZN Sharks Board where we watched shark dissections and learnt about different species of sharks. That’s where my love of sharks and the ocean began. Since I was 10, my dream has been to become a marine biologist. However, I decided to study Environmental Science to pursue a career in conservation where I can work on a range of projects, both in the marine and terrestrial environments.

What excites you about your internship?
During my postgraduate studies I’ve become interested in molecular biology and its applications in conservation science. With my internship focused on genetics, I am very excited that I have the opportunity to combine my passion for conservation with the genetics background needed for the type of research being done in the scientific community today.

What are your expectations of this internship?
I look forward to learning from my mentor, especially about sequencing and genotyping, as well as skills to advance my career path as a molecular conservation biologist. Furthermore, I hope to gain lots of hands-on experience.  And, through networking with other researchers in my field and attending workshops, I hope to thrive as a research scientist.

What contribution do you hope to make towards a future in which people and nature thrive?
After completing my PhD, which I plan to pursue in the future, I’d like to work at a university or research facility. I wish to supervise postgraduates and teach undergraduates about the importance of conservation science and research in general.

Who inspires you the most and why?
I’m inspired by people who are not afraid to leave their comfort zone. Whether it is to leave everything behind and start a new job in a new country or go back to university at a later age to study something they’ve always been passionate about.

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