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Monique van Zitters

Monique Van Zitters

2021 Intern

With passion and determination to drive positive change in nature conservation, Monique Van Zitters studied Conservation Ecology undergraduate, Entomology for her Honours and Conservation Ecology for her Master’s degree at Stellenbosch University. For her Master’s project, she explored the restoration of some of the catchments in the Western Cape.

Monique is currently interning at WWF as an Environmental Science Technician where she supports monitoring and evaluation for the organisation’s strategic performance. She is involved in the collection, analysis and management of data relating to various areas of WWF’s work and its outcomes on sustainable use of land, oceans and freshwater resources amongst others.

We asked her to elaborate on this and tell us a bit more about her career choice:

What are you passionate about?
Empowering myself through education is where my passion stems from. Not only do I enjoy being in nature, but I love learning about the environment and how it functions. This was heightened when I was studying Ecology because I was exposed to a diversity of topics like plants, soil, fire and even nematodes.

Over time, I realised how complex even the smallest interaction within the environment is and this fascinates me every day. I hope to one day be able to share what I have learned in a meaningful way, to educate and inspire others to be mindful of conserving our environment.

What inspired your choice of study?
Growing up in Paarl in the Western Cape, I was captivated by the most beautiful mountains and natural scenery. I knew that I wanted to pursue a career related to nature, but I wasn’t aware that one could study Ecology. When I was in grade 12, I did some research on what I could study, and a qualification in conservation was the obvious choice.

My Master’s research allowed me to be involved in restoration initiatives in the Berg and Breede Catchments, where I’ve learnt so much from the different stakeholders involved. It’s both challenging and exciting to be in a field where it feels like I am actively doing something impactful and contributing to safeguarding nature for the generations to come.

What excites you about your internship?
What excites me most about this internship is that I get to work across different projects throughout the organisation. Working in monitoring and evaluation allows me to gain insight to different project portfolios such as freshwater, land and climate.

I also appreciate the fact that I work alongside people who share the same passion for the environment as I do. The social aspect and engaging with the other interns through the workshops is also something that I am quite excited about!

What are your expectations of this internship?
Through this internship, I aspire to learn from the WWF team (especially my mentor and colleagues) and utilise the research and GIS skills that I have acquired. I hope to also be provided with opportunities to network both within and outside the organisation.

What contribution do you hope to make towards a future in which people and nature thrive?
My goal is to contribute meaningfully to a future in which people and nature thrive through science and my work at WWF. I hope that even through the most miniscule tasks that I undertake there is a contribution to the greater goal of WWF. Undertaking this internship also means that I contribute to the diversity of people, actively trying to create awareness for an environment where nature and people co-exist.

Who inspires you most and why?
Firstly, my parents inspire me because of their relentless work ethic despite the odds. Secondly, all the women in science whom I have surrounded myself with throughout the years. Lastly, individuals who advocate for change and equality.

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