Meet our GSP Workshop Coordinator Kajal Lechman

Kajal Lechman intern GSP

Kajal Lechman, MSc, from Durban, South Africa, is the Ecosystem Modeling Workshop Coordinator for the Global Seamounts Project (GSP) and is supported by Global Oceans with an intern stipend. We are fortunate and grateful to have Kajal’s contribution to the GSP and look forward to her continued involvement throughout the project. Here she shares some thoughts about working on the project:

Kajal Lechman, MSc Biology (Estuarine Ecology), University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

The natural world has always ignited my curiosity and has never failed to leave me in awe of its wonders, and so it was only fitting that my tertiary studies would be closely linked to it. My journey in science began as an undergraduate student pursuing my Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa).

During these seminal years, my passion for life sciences grew and I found myself in pursuit of a Bachelor of Science Honours in Marine Biology. It was then that I was introduced to the world of ecological modelling. My research project investigated the impact of reduced riverine freshwater on a coastal habitat (Thukela Bank, South Africa), by imposing scenarios of change on a dynamic ecosystem model.

More recently, I have completed my Master of Science degree that focused on estuarine ecology. The project investigated the mesozooplankton community dynamics of a small temporarily open/closed estuary (uMdloti Estuary, South Africa), during a period of prolonged closure. Further, the project analysed the energy flow contributions of the mesozooplankton community to the estuarine food web, through the use of ecological network analysis.

In 2021, I hope to pursue my PhD with my research focusing on the development and application of ecosystem tools for a global assessment of Temporarily Open/Closed Estuaries (TOCEs). The overarching aim is to produce a general Ecosystem Response Model for TOCEs, particularly those systems for which data is limited.

The opportunity to work on the Global Seamounts Project is nothing short of amazing. It provides for a working and learning environment not achievable through tertiary education, and that is quite exciting. The project involves collaborations among esteemed and leading researchers from various disciplines and countries, providing a platform for invaluable interactions.

One of the project aspects that piqued my interest was the novel approach of developing modelling objectives prior to commencing the field surveys. Often when attempting to model various aspects of ecosystems, there is a gap in data availability, making it difficult to develop accurate representations of the respective systems. By understanding the data needs first, it will assist modellers to increase the accuracy of modelling efforts and strengthen the predictive power of the models.

Seamounts are unique systems, holding a diversity of biological life while providing several ecological and economic services. The opportunity to further explore and understand these habitats brings the promise of greater protection and appreciation of their value.

I eagerly look forward to this new experience, to be a small part of something is going to leave a last legacy.