Getting to know Chantelle

Chantelle is the curator of the National Collection of Nematodes and a researcher at the Agricultural Research Council Plant Health and Protection (ARC-PHP). She is a taxonomist of various nematode groups and also has a keen interest in soil health and nematode ecology. 

“Nematode taxonomists are as scarce as chicken teeth 😆”

As the curator of one of the largest nematode collections in the world, Chantelle and the team play a crucial role in securing nematode diversity information in Africa. The national collection is the largest reference collection in Africa, and being a young taxonomist, Chantelle finds it a privilege to maintain and be a part of growing a collection that is not only crucial to understanding nematode diversity and distribution but also their role in food security. 

As a researcher in the nematology unit, Chantelle’s day generally consists of research on various nematode related projects, which will include identifying and counting nematodes, researching their distribution and host range, as well as their effects in agriculture. She is also a part of a very busy nematode diagnostics laboratory, where they process hundreds of soil and plant samples annually to aid farmers in understanding the soil environment in which their crops grow. In their laboratory, they also conduct studies on soil health and how they can contribute to sustainable agriculture. All of the abovementioned activities feed into the National Collection of Nematodes, where Chantelle is a curator, and ensure the safety of the collection through routine curation activities.

In her career, Chantelle’s biggest learning curve is that adaptability is key. She further explains that each year there are new ways to do things, and the people around you can teach you so many things if you are open to learning; just because something has worked for decades does not mean that it is the best way to do things.

Importance of collections: Chantelle sees collections as important and valuable in the sense that they basically consist of hundreds, thousands, or millions of snapshots in time. According to her, each specimen, locality card, and record is a snapshot in time. She further adds that the specimen, with their information, tells a story of how the world looked at that specific moment in time in a specific place on earth. 

“Until we invent time travel, I think collections are our time machines. Without collections, all this information is non-existent.”

Chantelle as a young leader: Chantelle has discovered that she is quite capable of adapting and working under high pressure situations, and that the best way to lead is by example. She has also learned that the best leaders in the world are not solo artists; success requires a team, and respect earns respect.  

Youth, according to Chantelle, are the future in many aspects of life. It is therefore critical to be given the opportunity to be perceived as a leader because this boosts confidence. Often, a small amount of confidence and trust from peers is enough to propel someone to greatness.

“Every leader once had a leader. There is still much I can learn to improve my leadership skills.” As a result, Chantelle believes that stepping up with respect is the best way to proceed—not to be arrogant or forceful, but to be adaptable and maintain a good communication line.

Chantelle’s anticipation from the workshop:

Chantelle is excited to learn about the different definitions of leadership and to see how each of the participants defines being a leader. She believes that this workshop will give her the opportunity to not only see herself as a nematologist but to look beyond that and really unlock some potential that she does not always see herself as having. She assumes that this workshop will open different windows in her mind and perhaps help her look at things differently. Chantelle believes that leadership has many different definitions and that various types of leaders are required in the world, and she is eager to discover what type of leader she can be.

Furthermore, Chantelle is looking forward to meeting new people and establishing connections within the NSCF community. She is also excited to learn more about herself and the young people around her. 

“The NSCF hub team and facilitators always make sure to take me out of my comfort zone, and I am looking forward to doing that again. We tend to get sucked into everyday activities at our various institutions, and I am looking forward to stepping out of my box.”

Anticipated challenges from the workshop: Chantelle is quite certain that the participants will be forced out of their comfort zones a little.

“As scientists, we are usually very comfortable in our little bubbles.” One of the aspects that she is most looking forward to being challenged with is determining the type of leader she is and whether or not she can use the tools provided to implement leadership in the future. 

Preparation for the workshop:

“Reading the material provided and also having conversations with myself about being a leader and what the term emerging leader means to me.”

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