Although it took a bit longer for her to settle on what career she wanted to pursue, Miss Nompumelelo Maringa has no regrets for choosing her current career: archaeozoologist. Miss Maringa was born in Soweto but grew up in Johannesburg in a very supportive, inspiring and educated family. She and her brother attended Mulbarton Primary School and Glenvista High School and at the time she thought she would follow in the footsteps of some of her family members who are healthcare workers and medical practitioners.
The focus of an archaeologist
She says it was only when she was doing her Grade 12 that she seriously tried to figure out what career paths she would like to pursue. All she knew was that she has inquisitive mind and that she wanted to get involved in the sciences through which she can make a change or impact.
As an archaeozoologist, Miss Maringa says she studies animal fossils that vary in age from thousands to millions of years old. She is qualified to analyse large (bigger than 5kg), small (between 750g to 5 kg) and micro mammals (smaller than 750g). “My current focus is on using micromammal (mice, rats, mole-rats, shrews etc.) fossils to identify the species that were present and the type of environment that existed thousands of years ago. Determining what the environment was like all those years ago can help us understand the changes in climate, average temperatures, rainfall and vegetation cover,” says Miss Maringa.
She says all these factors impacted the life ways of all living organisms. According to her this information can be used to compare and contrast how these changes to modern environmental changes affect the present day and what we can expect in the future.
Achievements and career highlights
Not only is she passionate about her career but Miss Maringa has some highlights and awards to boast about. Some of these include:
- Obtaining my MSc in Archaeology (2020)
- Starting a new position as a Fauna Research assistant at GENUS Palaeoscience (2021)
- Chairperson of the Southern African Archaeology Student Council (2022)
- Student Representative of the Association of Southern African Professional Archaeologists (2022)
- SADC Representative of the Association of Southern African Professional Archaeologists (2019-2022)
Youth participation in the STEMi
Miss Maringa believes youth should actively participate in the STEMi fields and calls for leaders of various science and technology bodies to work closely with the youth to promote science and technology. Says Miss Maringa: “The youth have the spirit of innovation, confidence and influence while leaders in science and technology have the experience and achievement. This combination has the potential to be impactful, empowering and lead more people to be involved in STEMi. More involvement, communication, dedication and financial aid are required to sustain initiatives that aim to tackle challenges.” She also recommends hosting science fairs where young individuals are tasked with finding alternative means or producing sustainable access to electricity, water or food. “The most innovative ideas can then be developed by leaders in STEMi in collaboration with the students and implemented on a larger scale,” adds Miss Maringa.
Outreach programmes for young women
She specifically wants to see the involvement of more young female scientists in STEMi. More outreach programmes need to be organised to spread the word and encourage young females that they too can be in STEMi says Miss Maringa. Internship and job shadowing programme are also important as they expose young females to a variety of career opportunities and experiences, says Miss Maringa, she adds. “Women are intelligent, resilient and capable of so much. It is our (women in STEMi) responsibility to be the role models for the younger generations, to encourage them, create the hype and to validate their potential,” says Maringa.
Challenges facing women
But she also worries about the challenges that women still encounter with the STEMi field. Some of these, according to Miss Maringa, include racism, sexism, exploitation and harassment. She identifies these challenges as some of the major reasons why women and more especially women of colour are few in my field.
Advice and tips
But she is positive and has some tips and advice to share with women who want to pursue STEMi stream. “Develop support systems that comprise family, friends, mentors and work colleagues. You will encounter rough times and it is important to have people that will encourage you to get back up, dust yourself off and try again. Don’t be afraid to say no to things that will not serve you, your mental, physical and emotional health is more important. It is an act of selflessness not selfishness,” advises Miss Maringa.
She says young women should not let fear make them cower from their battles, adding, the path least taken is always the hardest but it is worth the reward. “This is the time to create your own opportunities, to keep moving forward. Challenges will cross your path but they can always be crushed,” concludes Miss Maringa.