Staff Spotlight: Bernard Coetzee



Bernard is a conservation scientist that works on how anthropogenic pressures alter natural communities. He has a special focus on protected areas, light pollution and birds.

What is your favorite travel memory?

I spent about 8 months working and living in Fiji, and was lucky enough to also visit the Cook Islands and remote Tuvalu Atoll. I miss the South Pacific's sea, landscapes, natural beauty and great people still! It was also my first exposure to doing conservation work outside of academia, and so helped shape my science to be more applied.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Yes, I think I have learned a lot from working with a younger co-hort and the challenges they face in conservation / ecology / science careers. There is also daily learning opportunities, both for me and students. The key is to really open oneself up to those with a clear mind, and be open to be challenged.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

Two come to mind, both along the lines of "Thank you, because of your program, I'm now pursuing a career in conservation/science.” And so it's gratifying to hear that students learn, and I mean that in the full sense of the word. For some, it is a personal journey of growth, or could be a more holistic perspective on their careers and fields, and hopes for the future.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I teach on a 100 day semester that visits some 7-8 spectacular sites across South Africa, teaching conservation and ecology along the way. I wish I could have done it as a student, because it allows a 'taster', as if it were of range of scientitic techniques and skills, from computer based modeling and statistics, to nuts-and-bolts ecological field work.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

We really run a stellar program for undergraduates where they can experience the challenges and opportunties for ecology/conservation 'first hand', so they really get a on-the-ground perspective to better shape contemporary society, and indeed, the world at large. I think it is the team's ablity to listen, learn and be responsive to students' perspectives that has really made us grow.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

Understanding and adapting to the needs of the students, both for their personal growth but also dynamically change to ensure their professional growth in today's rapidly changing world. We also work with and embrace a range of partner organizations and people, which means that we, and by extension, our students, get exposure to a range of ways to deal with challenges.