Marine biologist and ichthyoplankton researcher at 32
Being a marine biologist and the only Ichthyoplankton researcher at the age of 32 is by all account one of the highest achievements for the Namibian-based Josephine Edward. A fisheries biologist by profession, Edwards is currently employed by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine resources (NatMIRC) in Swakopmund, Namibia.
Increasing local participation
Fishing is one of the critical and top industries in Namibia contributing about 3 percent of the country’s GDP since the early 2000s and it earns Namibia about 20 percent of its export earnings. Since independence Namibia has increased participation of the locals in the fishing industry which led to substantial creation jobs for previously disadvantaged Namibians including the youth.
As an Ichthyoplankton researcher Edwards’ main focus is to study the early life stages of commercially and economically important fish species along the Namibian coastline. Edwards says the scientific data gleaned through the studies she periodically undertakes go a long way in influencing Nambia’s fishing policies. In particular, the data assists decision makers to make informed decisions on how to sustainably utilise and conserve marine resources for the benefit of posterity.
Her job also includes, among others, collecting sample at sea on-board research vessels and determining the health of the marine environment, sharing the latest findings on marine biology with various stakeholders through academic conferences and outreach programs. In addition, she is also responsible for:
- initiating and participating in research projects
- public meetings
- scientific publications and presentations, as well as
- capacity building and training of scientists in Africa and different educational institutions.
Challenging male dominance
Edwards says she has never planned her career choice. She says after she matriculated in 2006 as the best student in Oshana region, she was granted a scholarship to study fisheries and aquatic science at the University of Namibia by the Norwegian Embassy. Edwards is also passionate about encouraging more young women to get involved in the fishing industry and this saw her founding the Lady Marine Consultancy Firm. The objective of the firm is to motivate young girls and women to enter the male-dominated maritime industry and also provide fisheries related information and expertise to various research institutions and projects.
She says although she felt lonely, isolated and suffered imposter syndrome when she first started, she worked hard and never allowed these challenges to stand on her way. What also helped her overcome these barriers, she reflects, was through interacting with other early life scientists on the African continent and internationally through a variety of networking platforms and collaborative research.
She says the biggest lesson she learned so far is that is vital to find good mentors and supervisors, as they will impart years of experience and wisdom. Edwards says this will save a mentee from committing unnecessary mistakes and regrets and this will help accelerate mentee’s own career progression.
In terms of her future plans, Edwards says she will focus on her Lady Marine initiative and form a Non-Profit Organisation that will address the struggles of young women in the maritime industry. Her tips to other young women who want to be involved in the fisheries field is that they should make sure they make the right subject choices from Grade 10. “Study hard, develop and nurture a love for the ocean and be fearless. Your gender as a woman does not define your potential capabilities,” concludes Edwards.