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WWF intern

Ofentse Mmako

2021 Intern

Ofentse Mmako hopes to use her expertise, passion for nature and curiosity for environmental issues to make a difference to the well-being of people and nature. She studied Biology with Botany for her Honours and Biology with Plant Biotechnology for her Master’s degree, both at the North-West University.

Ofentse is doing the 2021 WWF internship with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), based at the herbarium in Pretoria. She is responsible for the curation, filing and compilation of herbarium specimens taken from the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden. This kind of work includes the collection of plants that are dried, pressed, mounted on cardboard sheets and labelled for research purposes. She also does taxonomy research, amongst other things.

We were interested to see the bigger picture of her career path, so we asked her to give us some insight:

What are you passionate about?
I love learning and discovering new things every day. Knowledge to me is an essential tool for navigating life in general. I am also passionate about biological sciences and their role in society, as well as the preservation of indigenous plants for future generations.

What inspired your choice of study?
I chose to study Biology because of my love and passion for nature and how humans and other animals interrelate with natural resources. I am particularly interested in biotechnology because of its significant value in the world. That’s why I decided to explore the topic for my Master’s degree. Biotechnology is useful in many ways. It has already made an immense contribution to the health, medicine and agricultural fields.

Growing up, I’ve always felt strongly connected to science and how things operate in the world. I was very good at natural sciences from the elementary level and even Biology through to my high school years, which also inspired my choice of study. I love animals, especially dogs. Thus, I always feel the need to protect the environment for all living beings by using advanced scientific methods like biotechnology.

What excites you about your internship?
What excites me about the internship is that I will learn about various aspects of taxonomy. The science of naming, describing and classifying living organisms – which is what taxonomy is about – is regarded as the foundation of all other life science disciplines. I will also get a chance to prepare a manuscript and publish a scientific article, which is exciting. Furthermore, I am excited about the opportunities presented by the internship, which includes networking with interns in other fields.

What are your expectations of this internship?
I expect to expand my skills and grow as an individual through learning and improving my work ethic. This should help me become a good team member for any company or organisation that I may join after my internship.

What contribution do you hope to make towards a future in which people and nature thrive?
With the skills I will have gained from my internship as a taxonomist, I will contribute to conserving natural resources, which will also benefit people. I can achieve this by spreading my knowledge to help people learn how to use these resources efficiently to contribute to food security, medicinal use and a better life overall.

Who inspires you the most and why?
My mother’s resilience and hard work inspire me. Our well-being as her children is crucial to her, and she ensures that my siblings and I are healthy and safe. She constantly encourages me to work hard, remain focused in my studies and fight for what I believe in and want to achieve in life.

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