Greetings! My name is Matthew Walters and I am a current Masters student at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST). As my colleagues can sympathise, one cannot go through the conservation world without knowing a bit of everything, so my last four years have shown quite a variance in what I chose to study in. But if it came down to special interests, I can definitely say that I have soft spot for small mammals (mice, rats, shrews and elephant shrews). My other interests lie in rangeland ecology, which is a part of my overall interest of wildlife management.
When I first started at NUST, I can honestly say I hadn’t a clue in what I wanted to specialise in. Perhaps “specialist” is the wrong term even now as I am heading towards being more of a generalist. But when I was still a Bachelor’s student, I developed a keen interest in the small mammal diversity, which I then studied in Etosha National Park. As I said before, I lean more on the wildlife management aspect of things, so how on earth does counting the number of Desert Pygmy Mice (see picture), actually tell you that your wildlife area is being managed well? It was part of a learning process where I could see how many things were interrelated in the conservation world, and as it so happens catching mice in Sherman traps is a very useful management tool (and it’s quite entertaining)
Then in 2016, I went straight for my Honours and my interests experienced a shift. This time round I looked into the historical rangeland ecology of three commercial farms in central Namibia. I sampled photographs from 1956, I visited the farms on which the photographs were taken, and then I took matching photographs. Some areas hardly changed — others were unrecognizable (but I’ll expand more on these results some other time). In addition to that, I replicated what I saw on the ground with what could be seen aerially; and I was able to source aerial photographs from 1968 and compare them to drone images (Yes, drone flying is also part of my ever expanding toolbox). Needless to say, the Honour’s year really developed my understanding of the factors that shape the environment in Namibia.
And now, I’m doing my Masters, and even this time round my thesis will consist of a topic that is (seemingly) unrelated to the last two projects that I was a part of. But still, my hope is that this is the start of a journey, where I am able to share my findings and opinions with my other fellow authors and with the bloggers out there who find the time to interact with us.