I’m an associate professor in Zoology on a tiny little rural campus in Qwaqwa, South Africa. I might be the only cognitive ecologist in South Africa – few African researchers appear to be curious about the workings of animal minds. Up till now, I’ve done research on a variety of species. For my PhD, I studied yellow mongoose communication and cognition in the Kalahari Desert (they’re the sexiest mongoose species!), and as postdoc I looked at gelada monkeys in the Ethiopian highlands. Primates are clever, but I’m quite drawn to secretive creatures like carnivores. I’ve chased around after bat-eared foxes, trying to unravel the drivers of the extensive paternal care you can see in this species, and now I’m quite caught up in events in my own backyard. I work up in the mountains near Lesotho, and this absolutely stunning location is driving my current research. My research group is looking at rodents’ and small carnivores’ responses to mountain living: we are a high-altitude grassland, experiencing regular fires, snow in winter, and of course the unique challenges of spatial navigation! On top of this, humans are impacting the ecosystem. So, I have my work cut out for me.
To my shock, I’m becoming a mid-career scientist, and I’m not quite ready for it. I probably have a lot of wisdom (from hindsight!) about starting a new research group on a shoestring… In the meantime, I have to say that few of my peers appear to be interested in #SciComm, and I hope that my Biotweeps week will swing a bit more attention in the direction of research done in Africa, by locals. If you want to see some of my publications, I maintain a ResearchGate profile here and I’m also on Google Scholar.