Veronica van der Schyff

Veronica is a PhD student from the North-West University, South Africa. She has spent the last 6 years studying the impacts of various pollutants on coral reefs in the western Indian Ocean. In September 2014, she had the life changing opportunity to participate in the Mascarene Coral Island Expedition and, with a team of six researchers, visited Rodrigues, St. Brandon’s Atoll, and Agalega Island to study the effect of long-range plastic on remote islands. On Agalega, she presented a lecture on coral reef conservation to the community of the island. She has also participated in three research voyages on German and South African research vessels and published 4 articles in peer reviewed journals as first author and attended 8 international conferences. In 2020, she participated in the regional consultative workshop for Africa and the adjacent island states as part of the preparation of the UN Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development. Veronica has a passion for teaching. In 2017, she helped create the module, Coral Reef Ecology, for Honours students at the North-West University and has been a teaching assistant for that module since its incorporation in the curriculum. In 2018, she helped to teach marine ecotoxicology while on the International Indian Ocean Expedition 2 (IIOE-2) where students and young researchers from around Africa were trained in oceanography. Veronica has a passion for teaching. In 2017, she helped create the module, Coral Reef Ecology, for Honours students at the North-West University and has been a teaching assistant for that module since its incorporation in the curriculum. In 2018, she helped to teach marine ecotoxicology while on the International Indian Ocean Expedition 2 (IIOE-2) where students and young researchers from around Africa were trained in oceanography.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I am very grateful every time an opportunity is presented. The greatest opportunity I have had thus far was visiting the Mascarene Islands. I felt tremendous pride in my team and my role as communicator when we addressed the community of Agalega island on the importance of coral reef conservation.

What would you change about how women are perceived in science and ocean governance careers?

Women should put themselves forward for leadership positions. They must actively apply to be panelists and committee members. We should also consistently apply for available funding for further research.

Who has inspired you in your career?

My father instilled a love of the ocean in me. I always looked up to explorers such as James Cameron, Bob Ballard, and Sylvia Earle.

What is your dream research project? Where would you work and with whom?

My dream is to be a member of a multidisciplinary team that makes the game-changing discovery: How to effectively mitigate coral bleaching to save the Great Barrier Reef. I also want to visit Antarctica and the Arctic. As to whom I would like to work with… Any experienced scientist with heaps of passion and patience.

What would you say to your fifteen year old self about your career choices?

Stick with your passion! Don’t compromise because your dreams seem out of reach. Something big is coming…

What secret talent do you have?

I am the smallest caver in my caving club, and can manoeuvre squeezes quite well.

What do you miss most about the pre-Covid19 world?

Mobility! I was very excited to attend the International Coral Reef Symposium in Bremen, Germany. Thankfully, the conference is postponed to next year, so fingers crossed…

What is your quote to live by?

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, things are not going to get better. It’s not” ~ Dr Seuss.

St. Brandon Atoll