Getting to know Nelisiwe

Nelisiwe is the Research Technician (Mollusca) under the Natural Sciences department at the KwaZulu Natal Museum in Pietermaritzburg. Her duties include taking care of the Kwa-Zulu Natal Museum Mollusca collection, procuring curatorial material, supporting researchers, databasing new specimens, updating the existing database, as well as managing loans and all additions to the molluscan collection. She completed her Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) with Natural and Life Sciences as major subjects at the University of South Africa in 2019,  BSc (Hons) Zoology at the University of Zululand in 2017, and a BSc Botany and Zoology at the University of Zululand in 2016. 

Her role as a technician in securing the Malacology collection is through diligently managing and preserving mollusc specimens, supporting curators in their research endeavors, and implementing security measures to safeguard the invaluable resources entrusted to the museum’s care.

Nelisiwe’s typical workday involves the following:

  • Collection Management: cataloging, organising, and maintaining mollusc specimens. This involves accurately documenting specimen information, such as species, locality, date of collection, and collector information.
  • Preservation: She ensures proper preservation of mollusc specimens through appropriate storage techniques, including maintaining appropriate temperature, humidity levels, and protection from pests.
  • Research Support: She assists researchers, curators, and visiting scholars in accessing and studying the museum’s mollusc collection. This mainly involves providing assistance with specimen photographs, data retrieval, loan processing, and facilitating research inquiries.
  • Security: She implements measures to prevent theft, vandalism, and damage to specimens. This mainly includes monitoring access to the collection rooms, implementing security protocols, and conducting regular inventories to verify the integrity of the collection.

According to Nelisiwe, mollusc collections are valuable repositories of scientific knowledge, historical records, and cultural heritage, and they play a vital role in advancing scientific research, biodiversity conservation, education, and public outreach, making them indispensable resources for both present and future generations.

Her biggest learning yet has been participating in fieldwork, which has afforded her an opportunity to collect new specimens, explore diverse habitats, and observe molluscs in their natural environment. As a result, Nelisiwe has learned field techniques for specimen collection, documentation, and preservation, as well as safety protocols and environmental ethics. Moreover, fieldwork experiences have deepened her appreciation for biodiversity and ecosystem dynamics.

Nelisiwe as a young leader: Nelisiwe has discovered that she is an adaptable individual who is able to navigate changing priorities, emerging opportunities, and unforeseen challenges. She  has the ability to remain flexible and open-minded in response to new information or changing circumstances.

Anticipated challenges in stepping into the young leader role: Nelisiwe takes the realist view and therefore expects some resistance to change in two aspects:

  • Organisational Culture: We may encounter resistance or skepticism from colleagues or supervisors who are resistant to change or unfamiliar with the value of leadership development programs. 
  • Networking Challenges: While networking opportunities are a valuable aspect of the workshop, building and maintaining professional relationships can be challenging, particularly for introverted or shy individuals. Participants may need to step out of their comfort zones and actively seek out opportunities to connect with peers.

To make her transition into her young leadership role smoother, Nelisiwe believes that it is important to communicate one’s intentions with their supervisor, seek guidance and feedback, acknowledge their superior’s leadership, and, most importantly, recognize when it’s time to step back. 

The importance of the workshop: She sees this workshop as having the potential to catalyze individual growth by enhancing one’s leadership skills, expanding networks, fostering professional growth, advancing career trajectories, and driving positive change within my institution by fostering a new generation of skilled and visionary leaders in collections management. 

Nelisiwe believes that identifying and capacitating young leaders is essential for building resilient, adaptive, and forward-thinking organisations, and that by nurturing the talents and potential of young leaders, organisations can ensure their continued success and relevance in an ever-changing world.

Nelisiwe’s expectations from the workshop: Nelisiwe is looking forward to being inspired and empowered to do more and to the overall transformative experience that the workshop may bring—the knowledge, skills, and connections needed to succeed as leaders in collections management and make a positive impact in our institutions and the broader museum community.

Preparation for the workshop: 

“I am familiarising myself with the workshop agenda, workshop preparation reading material, objectives and objectives, as well as reflecting on my personal and professional goals for attending the workshop.”

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