Getting to know Randall

Randall is a technician at the H.G.W.J. Schweickerdt Herbarium (University of Pretoria). He holds an honours degree in biological sciences obtained at the University of Cape Town. He has gained experience working in collections management and curation by working at various herbaria across the country.

As a herbarium technician, his duties include various roles such as engaging in general herbarium activities, managing the anatomy laboratory, providing teaching support to undergraduate and postgraduate modules, and assisting with administrative tasks. When he is not working, he enjoys spending time with friends and family.

Randall’s role in securing collections often has multiple aspects, for instance, providing training to students and herbarium visitors to ensure good herbarium practices to avoid any physical damage to the specimens. Another aspect is to measure all potential risks to the collection, document the policies, and put into practice the mitigating actions to the identified risks. All herbarium documentation, such as loans/gifts should be filed for accurate record keeping to ensure that specimens are accounted for and to avoid the loss of those specimens. The growth of a collection is crucial, and therefore all incoming specimens are treated with care, processed, and incorporated into the collection. All these tasks are an overview of the processes his role entails in securing the collection at the H.G.W.J. Schweickerdt Herbarium.

A typical day involves a few generalized responsibilities. These include general herbarium tasks such as physical and scientific curation, updating of the electronic database, and helping visitors with herbarium relation queries. Other daily activities involve managing the functioning of the Anatomy Laboratory and providing teaching support for undergraduate and postgraduate modules.

Aside from the importance of the collection, Randall has learned the most from the fact that everyone uses it. 

“It could be assumed that a collection within a university would largely just be used by students, researchers, or academics for scientific reasons. However, I found that to not be the case. There have been a variety of people using the collection, such as a farmer trying to determine what his cattle are feeding on that is affecting them negatively or a home gardener trying to add colour and diversity to their garden.” 

Randall emphasises that collections are available for everyone and should remain that way.

Importance of collections: According to Randall, collections are important and irreplaceable sources of information about biological material and the world they inhabit. They provide the material that is important for various scientific studies in taxonomy, systematics, ecology, anatomy, morphology, conservation biology, biodiversity, and paleobiology, as well as being used for teaching and by the public. 

“They are a gold mine of information.”

He further adds that they are also used for legal services such as information for environmental impact assessments and as a tool against the illegal wildlife and plant trade.

Randall as a young leader: Randall has realised that he enjoys the position of being a leader and the responsibilities that come with it. 

“I’ve seen that people who are part of a team will often ‘buy-in’ to the process or idea if the leader is willing to do the necessary work to ensure a positive outcome rather than just delegate.”

Randall prides himself on being that person who puts in the extra hours to ensure that the goals are met with a high level of completion.

Randall believes that the leadership skills he gains from the workshop will definitely help him achieve the professional goals that he has set for himself. He foresees that the knowledge exchange at the workshop will lay the groundwork for the professional and personal growth needed to help him excel in his current and future roles. 

“I think it’s rather important for young leaders to be identified and capacitated, as they are more likely to challenge the ways things are done and push for improvement. Young leaders are the ‘succession plan’ future of collection management, and investing in them can only be beneficial for its continued growth and improvement.”

For a young leader to transition into their young leader role smoothly, Randall suggests having a mutual respect for your superior, the positions you both hold, and fostering open lines of communication where all parties involved are free to express themselves without fear of being ridiculed or embarrassed. 

Expectations from the workshop: Randall is looking forward to the organic exchange of fresh ideas and thoughts on leadership from both the facilitators and the attendees, as well as the subsequent learnings that sprout from it. He is also definitely looking forward to networking with the other emerging leaders and gaining insights from their experiences while working in various collections.

Randalls foresees being met with the potential challenge of blending old ideas with new insights on what leadership is and how they both can be used to improve as a young leader. He believes that the challenge for the journey after the workshop is to use what was learned at the workshop even when pushback is received. He, however, believes that these challenges will serve as learning opportunities that will allow for personal and professional growth as a leader.

Preparation for the workshop: 

“By reading the prescribed readings and familiarizing myself with session themes, as well as keeping my goals in mind and trying to align them with the skills I hope to gain from the workshop.”

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