World Migratory Bird Day 2024

For World Migratory Bird Day, 11 May 2024, we caught up with a long time friend of Science Spaza and the coolest BIRD RESEARCHER, Dr Thobeka Gumede.


How did you get interested in researching birds?

My interest in researching birds began at a young age when I spent a lot of time outdoors with my family. I vividly remember birdwatching with my friends, where we'd try to spot different species on our way to school. These experiences sparked my curiosity about the natural world, and I found myself drawn to birds in particular because of their beauty and diversity.

As I grew older, my fascination with birds deepened, and I began to actively seek out opportunities to learn more about them. I enrolled in courses on ecology, where I gained a deeper understanding of bird biology, behaviour, and their role in conservation.

Contributing to data collection efforts and collaborating with other bird enthusiasts allowed me to make meaningful contributions to scientific research while also deepening my own knowledge and appreciation for these remarkable creatures.

Overall, my journey into researching birds has been driven by a combination of childhood experiences, academic curiosity, and a desire to contribute to our understanding of the natural world.

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What helped you believe in yourself, to pursue your dream/ career?

Believing in myself and pursuing my dreams and career involved a combination of factors and experiences.

Firstly, having a supportive family and mentors played a crucial role. Their encouragement, guidance, and belief in my abilities gave me the confidence to pursue my goals, even when faced with challenges or setbacks.

Additionally, cultivating a growth mindset was instrumental. Embracing the idea that failure is a natural part of the learning process and an opportunity for growth helped me persevere during difficult times. Instead of seeing obstacles as insurmountable barriers, I learned to view them as opportunities to learn, adapt, and become stronger.

Setting clear goals and developing a plan to achieve them also played a significant role in building my self-belief. Breaking down larger aspirations into smaller, manageable steps allowed me to make progress incrementally, which in turn boosted my confidence and motivation.

Finally, staying true to my passions and interests fueled my determination to pursue my dreams. Being deeply passionate about my chosen path gave me the drive and resilience needed to overcome obstacles and stay focused on my long-term goals.

While self-belief and pursuing one's dreams can be challenging at times, surrounding oneself with support, embracing failure as part of the journey, setting clear goals, and staying true to one's passions can all contribute to building the confidence needed to pursue a fulfilling career or dream.

What advice would you like to give your much younger self that would help you achieve your dreams?


Dear younger self,

First and foremost, embrace your curiosity and never stop learning. The world is vast and full of wonders waiting to be explored. Don't be afraid to ask questions, seek out new experiences, and follow your interests wherever they may lead you. Curiosity will fuel your growth and open doors to unexpected opportunities.

Secondly, cultivate resilience in the face of challenges. Life is filled with ups and downs, and setbacks are inevitable. Instead of letting them discourage you, view them as opportunities for growth and learning. Remember that failure is not a reflection of your worth, but rather a stepping stone on the path to success. Keep pushing forward, even when things get tough, and believe in your ability to overcome obstacles. Lastly, practice self-compassion and be kind to yourself.

It's easy to be your own harshest critic, but remember that you are only human, and it's okay to make mistakes or fall short of your own expectations. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would extend to a friend facing similar challenges. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small, and don't be too hard on yourself when things don't go as planned.

By embracing curiosity, resilience, and self-compassion, you'll not only achieve your dreams but also find joy and fulfillment along the way. With love and encouragement,

Your future self