I am Julia Kanyanda born and raised in Ondobe, in the Ohangwena region. Ever since growing up, I have wanted to be a scientist which led me to study microbiology at the University of Namibia where I was taught by a professor who made me fall in love with microbiology. He was also my supervisor for my final year project which was based on determining whether the Devil claw plant has antibacterial and antioxidant activities. Having gained much theoretical knowledge, I wanted a platform to apply it to. I was given this opportunity at the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) doing an internship in their genetics laboratory.
CCF is located 44km north of Otjiwarongo and upon my arrival I was welcomed by beautiful smiles of fantastic staff members. And guess what? I got to see a cheetah for the first time in my life apart from seeing them on television but that was just part of the experience.
Individual identification, species identification, sex determination and relatedness all this based on scat analysis; wow this was all new to me. By the way, scat is just the scientific term for poop of carnivores.
There are multiple departments at CCF and one of them is the genetics department where I was placed. A lot happens in the genetics lab that is funded by donations. I assisted with a project which focused on genotyping the cheetahs using DNA extracted from cheetah scat.
When I was not in the lab, I was helping with general tasks like goats checks on the model farm, cheetah feeding and my favourite of all was gardening because I find it therapeutic. I would describe my experience at CCF as one of a learning / growing curve. Being at CCF also broadened my mind knowledge wise and also how to work with people of so many cultural backgrounds.