Intern Story

Paws, Prints and DNA: Chronicles of a Genetics Intern

  • by Shaun-lee Saal December 3, 2023
Paws, Prints and DNA: Chronicles of a Genetics Intern

Hi there! I am Shaun-lee Saal, originally from the small town Aranos but currently calling Rehoboth home. I am in my final year as a Bachelor of Science student, majoring in Biology, at the Namibian University of Science and Technology.

When the time came to hunt for an internship, I knew that I wanted to do something outside my comfort zone. Interestingly, I stumbled upon The Cheetah Conservation Fund through a friend who had just completed her internship here. After bombarding her with questions, I dived into research, applied multiple times (persistence pays off!), and finally landed the opportunity that had me buzzing with excitement.

CCF, nestled 44 km North of Otjiwarongo, welcomed me with open arms. Not only did I see a cheetah for the first time, but I shared the experience with my family making it so much better.

I worked with everyone in the lab, but I spent the majority of my time working with two other interns namely Valencia and Noelle, on the Rockstars project, playing DNA detectives with cheetah scat, of which all was new to me, I really appreciated their patience in teaching me all the different techniques and procedures.

But wait there’s more! My responsibilities extended beyond the laboratory, on my general days I helped in different departments, working with the dog team – of which the puppies stole the show (see the photo above), assisting the cheetah team and hospitality team, participating in game counts with the ecology team, and gaining insights into the multifaceted world of conservation.

Nights at CCF were filled with watching my favourite Afrikaans soapie, it was sort of my home away from home, family dinners at hotspot and going on exciting night drives. Oh, and let us not forget the cake – every departure called for a sweet celebration. Good times, indeed!

My learning experience here at CCF was steep and very rewarding, in addition to gaining practical experience in the laboratory that I can carry with me as I further my studies, I also learned a great deal from every department here, how they all work together for to achieve a common goal. I met, interacted with, and made friends with people from all different cultural backgrounds.

In the lab and at CCF there was never a dull moment. Shout out to Hafeni, Tresia, Anastasia, Tamina, Noelle, and Valencia – I learned a lot. So, in a nutshell, I am grateful for the opportunity CCF has given me, not only did I learn and discovered more things about myself, but I have also developed a new profound appreciation for wildlife conservation.

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