Growing up in Malawi, Gemma was immersed in, and curious about, the natural world from a young age. Having witnessed first-hand both Malawi’s incredible biodiversity and the increasing tension between people and nature, she gained a desire to understand these complex interactions and where solutions might lie. Passionate about biology, Gemma moved to South Africa in 2013 to complete her undergraduate degree in Ecology and Evolution, and Genetics at the University of Cape Town, followed by an Honours in Biological Sciences. Her Honours project involved testing the co-introduction hypothesis of invasive legumes and their symbiotic bacteria in the Cape. During this time, she also volunteered as a research assistant for members of the department working on conservation of the cape clawless otter and Kittlitz’s plover and worked as a demonstrator on undergraduate courses. The latter sparked an interest in teaching and understanding the ways in which we communicate information. In 2017, this led to a foray into a practical CELTA teaching course and teaching adult learners in the UK.
It did not take long for Gemma to realise that scientific research was still her primary passion, and her heart was in Africa, but she was determined to find a way to marry her diverse interests. Over the last 2 years Gemma has gained field experience working as a research volunteer with several conservation groups in Ecuador, focusing on avian biodiversity and protection of endangered bird species, and researching biological pest management strategies and sustainable land use with members of the Malawian Macadamia industry. She hopes this Masters will enable her to combine her passions and effectively apply them to conservation in Africa.