Senior environmental scientist making waves

20 November 2020 | People

Michelline Nawatises

Aletia Bock started with Debmarine Namibia as a bursar in 2005, after completing her studies in environmental science at Rhodes University.

“I joined the environmental section of the company in 2009 as a graduate trainee and currently hold the position of a senior environmental scientist,” she said.

When asked about her career choice, she mentioned primary school teachers who constantly challenged her and her classmates to be inquisitive about the natural environment, and who instilled a love for science in her at an early age.

When the time came to choose a career, it was a natural choice, she said.

“When people think of environmentalists, they often visualise ‘greenies’ tied to trees protesting development activities, however, that’s not who we are. An aspect of my job that I most enjoy is to ensure mining takes place under careful consideration and management of environmental impacts and concerns,” she said.

Bock added that the difference between an environmentalist on a sea and land is accessibility.

“It takes a considerable amount of logistical effort to research the marine environment compared to that land mining,” she said.

Bock further said undertaking this course, she was exposed to various research techniques and was afforded the chance to network with internationally acclaimed field experts through lectures and research seminars.

“Developing these skills will enable me to undertake more in-house scientific research within the company, minimising the reliance on external scientists,” she said.

Bock was enrolled in a one-year Master of Research: Ocean Sciences programme at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom.

“My programme ran from September 2019 to September 2020,” she said.

“The programme aims to develop research skills in a specific field of physical, chemical or biological oceanography, depending on your interest. Mine was specifically in biological oceanography, which will complement the current benthic monitoring programme of the company.”

Bock advised that to excel in any career, you need to be hard-working with a good dose of passion for your chosen field.

“To be an environmental scientist, you will need science subjects at school. I think as you further your studies, you can truly hone in on the area you enjoy researching.”

She added that her next learning stop will be education, as one of her aspirations is to start a science club in her hometown -Rehoboth - for primary school children to help nurture a love for science.

“I would like to create a safe space for kids to conduct experiments, get out in nature with their notebooks - or iPads - writing and drawing the natural environment they observe,” she said.

She advised budding scientists to study hard to reach their goals and make use of the learning opportunities presented to them. “One key piece of advice I would also give is to seek out a mentor in the field who can help guide your career aspirations,” Bock said.

If she could have dinner with the person she admires the most in the world, she would love to sit down with Michelle Obama.

“I think she is a phenomenal woman and inspirational leader through the various projects she initiated as First Lady of the United States, which focused on building strong and healthy family units and education.

“Also, I would love to get a few tips on how to make your husband a president,” she said with a chuckle.