Awards ceremony guests enjoyed a special guided tour of the Aquarium before proceedings started

Congratulations to Shark Spotters’ Dave van Beuningen who was commended for his contribution to the City of Cape Town’s Urban Sustainability Internship Programme at an awards ceremony held here at the Two Oceans Aquarium on Friday 29 January.

The Urban Sustainability Internship Programme offers interns the chance to enhance, reinforce and strengthen their academic knowledge and practical skills, making them more marketable for job opportunities because of their work experience.

Dave van Beuningen (back left) is one of five interns commended for their performance at the awards ceremony. The others are: (front row, from left) Kaamilah Allie, Kay Williams, Siva Fana and (back row, right) Lourens Booysen

“This was the first year that Shark Spotters participated in the City of Cape Town's Urban Sustainability Internship Programme,” says Shark Spotters Research Manager Dr Alison Kock, who supervises City interns on behalf of the organisation. “Because of the comprehensive screening and interview process, we were able to secure two passionate interns, Firdous Hendricks and Dave van Beuningen, perfectly suited for the positions we advertised for.

From left: Shark Spotters Project Manager Sarah Waries, Interns Firdous Hendricks and Dave van Beuningen, and Research Manager Dr Alison Kock

“Over the year they gained valuable experience in the workplace in their respective fields and simultaneously they received additional learning opportunities and training through dedicated career workshops, which formed part of the prestigious internship programme.

“They both added tremendous value to Shark Spotters, bringing fresh ideas, enthusiasm and much needed capacity.

“We are very proud of both our interns and thank the City for this wonderful opportunity.”

Since its inception in 2015, the Urban Sustainability programme has employed more than 50 interns from a total group of 291 interns that have been employed by the City. On 1 February 2016, 42 new interns started work within the City, in areas including biodiversity management, coastal and heritage resource management, environmental compliance, nature conservation, environmental communications and education, and GIS.

The City's interns also had an opportunity to play in the new Smart Living Challenge Zone

The Two Oceans Aquarium has a long-standing relationship with the City of Cape Town. Most recently, we collaborated on the new Smart Living Challenge Zone at the Aquarium. The Challenge Zone is an innovative approach to educating and inspiring the citizens of Cape Town. It comprises four digital interactive installations that address the themes of energy, water, waste and biodiversity. The installations and accompanying signage and graphics convey the City of Cape Town’s key messages around these four themes. Coupled with the exhibit are education programmes, which are being run through our Environmental Education Centre.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Two Oceans Aquarium Communications & Sustainability Manager Helen Lockhart said: “The City needs our support and the combined efforts of all its citizens for the long-term sustainability of the city and the environment, including the oceans.”

Shark spotting

As supporters of her long-term sevengill shark research project in the False Bay area, we are in regular contact with Dr Kock and her team. In September last year, for example, we could assist her and Dave during a surprise sevengill shark-tagging opportunity.

We asked Dave a few questions about his internship programme with Shark Spotters and the City of Cape Town.

Two Oceans Aquarium: What motivated you to apply to the Urban Sustainability Internship Programme?

Dave: also digs turtles

Dave van Beuningen: In 2014, I was working for the South African Shark Conservancy as their operations manager and intern coordinator. I applied to the University of Cape Town to do my MSc in conservation biology but I ended up not receiving a place on the programme; it is very competitive! Needless to say, I was very disappointed and not sure what I was going to do next.

At that point my previous boss told me about a position with the Shark Spotters, which was being run through the City’s internship programme.

Shark Spotters has such a good name and was an organisation that had been on my radar for a while, so I decided to apply for the position and was lucky enough to have got it.

TOA: What were the highlights of your year?

Dr Alison Kock and Dave van Beuningen eye a sevengill shark that's about to be tagged

DVB: There have been so many. I love how every day is different and I get to do a mix between office work and fieldwork. I enjoy talking to the public about sharks and Shark Spotters, and helping to dispel some of the myths surrounding sharks. The fieldwork is definitely a highlight, as you get to experience the amazing marine life that we have right on our doorstep. You don’t know what you’ll experience every time you go into the field - sometimes you can go eight hours without seeing anything, and other days you can see the white sharks at Seal Island breaching clear out the water (one of nature’s most amazing events, in my opinion!) or see wild pods of killer whales in the bay.

We live in an amazing part of the world, it's just unfortunate that more people aren't exposed to it.

TOA: What big things did you learn that you think will prepare you for the future?

DVB: One of the biggest things I learnt last year was that, if I am to make it in this field, I need to show initiative and make a space for myself. It's hard to find good work in this field, and I am definitely fortunate to be in the position I am in, so there's no time to get complacent.

I've also seen the power of collaboration. When like-minded people can get together for a common goal, great things are possible. So it's important to network and maintain good relationships with people.

TOA: What’s next for Dave?

DVB: I am very fortunate to have been offered a permanent position with Shark Spotters as their research assistant. We have some exciting things planned for 2016, next is just to make them happen. Watch this space!

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