Mpho Havhi

Mpho grew up in a township in Venda, Limpopo, where the most prominent vegetation is acacias. She grew up interested in any topic related to space, and she wanted to study either astronomy or become an astronaut, which was amplified when she visited the Boyden Observatory in Bloemfontein. But she soon realised that physics wasn’t her forte and had to rethink what she wanted to do as a career. And that’s when she fell in love with the natural sciences and started noticing things in her surroundings that she had previously been oblivious to.

Mpho initially applied to study biochemistry and microbiology, but she absolutely loved the introductory modules in various fields of botany she did in first year, so she switched to botany and chemistry. For her third-year research project, she investigated the correlation between water pollution and epiphyte production in a type of seagrass found in a temporarily open estuary in Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth). It was during this period that she came across the concept of conservation. Mpho went on to do an honours in botany, focusing on the response of savanna trees to harvesting, further exploring the topic of conservation and being exposed to how it guides the type of research being done in botanical fields. This was also when she learnt that that was the direction she wanted her career to go in.

Mpho loves plants and understanding how they work as a community to respond to stressors and disturbances. She also loves figuring out ways to improve the relationship between humans and their environment and how to make natural resources accessible to the communities they serve, but in a sustainable manner. She is a bit of an idealist, and it shows in the goals she has outlined for herself as a conservationist: the end goal is to work with organisations that are involved in developing and implementing strategies that communities can use to sustainably use the resources they have. That is, they would still benefit economically and socially, but their use of those resources would be regulated and ecologically sound. She believes that this MSc programme is the tool she needs to gain the necessary skills and network to help her achieve this goal.

In her spare time, Mpho enjoys doing things that help her detach from reality a bit, so baking and reading fiction are her go-to activities.

Thesis: Community distribution along hydrological gradients in a groundwater-fed wetland in the Cape Floristic Region. (Supervisors: Adam West, Karl Reinecke, Justin van Blerk)