By Tapiwa Prosper Chimbadzwa
Who is Merlyn Nomusa Nkomo ?
Merlyn is a Zimbabwean ornithologist specializing in raptor biology, who is currently a PhD student studying the movement ecology of Jackal Buzzards in relation to wind farms.
She is, a conservationist at heart passionate about transformation and better models of conservation practice. At the core of her work she is mobilizing youth involvement in conversation and the sustainable development of African communities and countries. Merlyn is undoubtedly a leader in the field of conservation thought, actively engaged in mentoring, fostering group collaboration, science communication, and writing to foster learning and advancement on the most pressing conservation issues.
Source of Inspiration
Question : Who is your inspiration and what motivates you to do this job ?
Answer: I draw my inspiration from nature itself. The resourcefulness, beauty, adaptability, simplicity and complexity of nature inspires me and energizes me to stay in the pursuit of its wonders and the protection of its integrity.
Question: What are the most exciting and most challenging experiences of your work ?
Answer : I am fortunate to be on a career path of my choice and passion. Ornithology is ever exciting, for example, travelling to a new place presents you with the exciting prospect of seeing new birds or even behaviors unique to that place. Birding itself is great escape and has helped me a lot, it is a good way to recharge for my mental health. The challenges I have faced are the lack of diversity in my field as there aren’t a lot of black people and women more so in Zimbabwe. This makes it hard to form mentorship relationships or feel a sense of belonging. Another challenge is the harshness of some field sites, this means one has to always be physically fit and willing to endure isolation or harsh weather. On the flip side, this challenge is also adventure and an opportunity to grow.
The experiences of women in conservation
Question: What are the challenges being faced by women in conservation and what can be done to address them ?
Answer: For a long time, I had never had a gendered view my career but now I realize that there are barriers in society, academia, industry and practice for women in conservation. A common challenge for all is funding to pursue careers in conservation. There is often more funding available for projects than for capacity building and investing in local talent through bursaries, training courses and travel grants for participation in important engagements. Also, most conservation organizations, unlike other industries, are not widely organized in terms of work place policies that pertain to safe guarding in the work place women for example sexual harassment policies and maternity leave policies. This is likely due to the fact that most organizations are small without the capacity for this aspect, however, it is important and discourages other women from pursuing these careers that don’t offer them protection to be women in the field and also fulfil their personal wishes to start families while pursuing a career and their social roles as mothers.
Advice to aspiring conservationists
My advice to aspiring conservationists is to be courageous. Courageous in seeking opportunities, sharing their ideas, inviting others in their community to partner in these ideas and seeing them through. I urge them to value creating networks locally, regionally and internationally, seeking mentors and mentoring others too. They should approach their careers with global thinking, thinking Global but acting locally.
What is your favorite animal ?
I don’t particularly have a favorite animal, however, the African Wild Dog ( Lycaon pictus) is one of my favorites to see in the wild.
" All wild dogs share a sense of fun, a gentleness of soul and a co-operative spirit, which makes them one of Africa’s most enigmatic creatures."
Opportunities for Young people
Two years ago, I founded a youth birding club called Mat’land Chirpers, out of my love for avian conservation and sharing the joys of birding. This club has grown exponentially with young people taking a keen interest in conservation issues. This year, we are expanding our programs and also changing our name to Matabeleland Youth Conservation Society. We invite all conservationists young and old to partner with us as we work towards a better future for our country.
For more information follow below attached links :