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Who are we? Jessica and Gwynneth: Part 2



Previously we wrote about publishing weekly biographies on new and veteran team members. This is the sixth edition of these bios (Part 2). In Part 1 of this week we wrote about Jessica and here we introduce Gwynneth. Dr Gwynneth Matcher has actually been to Antarctica before. She is a researcher from the Biochemistry and Microbiology Department at Rhodes University and is the Principal Investigator for a project focusing on microbial ecology in Dronning Maud Land. Since the two projects visit similar areas in the Antarctic we often work together and share logistics.

If you have missed any of our previous posts you can read about them following the links below:

  • During Week 1 we chatted to Dave and Nicola.
  • During Week 2 we chatted to Cam and Jenna.
  • Week 3 was spent getting to know Rosie and Tebogo better.
  • During Week 4 we got to know Liezel and Karin a bit better.
  • In Week 5 we interviewed Gaby and Sunet.

Biography # 6 of the ‘Newbie’ (or in this case not-so-newbie) Participants: Gwynneth Matcher

1. What is your name?

Gwynneth Matcher.

2. Where are you from?

I was born in Namibia but grew up in Johannesburg.

3. Tell us a bit more about yourself?

My PhD in Microbiology focused on enzyme activity in Pseudomonas putida (bacterium) with potential application in the pharmaceutical industry and my postdoc research was on microbes which are used in the mining industry to extract high value metals such as gold from low grade ores. Since then (i.e. the last 8 years or so), my research has focused more on the environmental aspect of microbiology with my study areas including temperate estuaries, mountain soil biomes and of course, microbial communities in Antarctica(For more on Dr Gwyneth Matcher’s project please click here.)

I enjoy small town living and I love the outdoors (hiking, camping, etc). When the weather is bad, I enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and a good book to read. My family is extremely important to me and I spend as much time as possible with them. 

4. Why are you going to Antarctica?

To conduct research into microbial processes and ecosystems in this harsh and arid environment.

5. What is your research focus there?

I lead a research group focusing on microbial ecology in Antarctica.

6. Have you been on the S.A. Agulhas II before?

Yes. Many times.

7. Have you been to Antarctica before?

Yes, twice.

8. Have you ever had a white Christmas before?

Only in Antarctica.

9. Do you have special plans for Christmas?

Secret Santa, eating a nice dinner and most importantly, getting beautiful scientific data.

10. What are you looking forward to or are most excited about?

The exciting science we are planning to carry out. I am really looking forward to seeing the results. I am also looking forward to just enjoying the scenic wonders of Antarctica. It really is breathtaking!

11. Are you worried about anything or does something about the trip scare you?

Not being able to complete all research work due to bad weather/storms. I have a healthy respect for crevasses as they are not always easy to spot and are extremely dangerous.

12. How have you prepared for the trip? 

I have done basic first aid and climbing training. I have also ordered/sourced (along with Prof Meiklejohn) all the appropriate gear for camping and science work as well as suitable clothing for keeping warm while working in the field.

13. Are you taking a luxury item with you, like something you won’t have access to once you’ve left?

Chocolate!  Lots of it!

14. What do you think you will miss the most during the trip?

My family and being able to shower every day.

15. Do you have anything specific you want to do while you are there? Something you can only do on a trip like this?

Be in broad daylight as the clock strikes midnight on Old Year’s Eve (to welcome the new year in with sunshine and a smile).

16. Are you leaving family behind? Have you prepared them for your being away for three months?

I am leaving one brother, two sisters, a niece, nephew, folks and my dog  behind. Since this is the third time I am going down to Antarctica, they all understand and are prepared (except maybe for the dog but she will get spoilt rotten at my folks’ house so I will most likely miss her more than she misses me).

17. Are you doing anything nice before you go, e.g. a weekend away or a holiday?

I am going to spend a weekend with family at a game park near Grahamstown. And I plan to pack lots of “doggie goodies” for my puppy dog.

18. Do you have any advice for those going down for the first time? 

Respect Antarctica (i.e. be safe and leave it pristine) and enjoy the splendor and grandeur of this wonderful and awesome continent.

#2016fieldpreparations #Antarctica #landscapeprocessesinantarcticecosystems #LPiAE


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