Passion, perseverance and vision essential being a scientist

Posted on June 05, 2021

Scarce skills in the natural and agricultural sciences
Focus on a soil scientist: Prof Eyob H Tesfamariam - Associate Professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences


Q: Why did you choose to study Soil Science?
I chose Soil Science because I am fascinated when I think about the soil. It is what man and all terrestrial animals are made from. It is the medium where their food for survival grows and is their dwelling place and their final resting place after death

Q: Why is Science, (including Soil Science) important?
It is important to define first what science is. Cambridge International Dictionary of English defines Science as the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical world, involving experimentation and measurement and the development of theories to describe the results of these activities. Therefore, science provides us with the basis to understand and know our physical environment including soils based on which rational judgment and conclusions could be reached with regard to the entity under investigation, soils in our case.

Q: Why is #WorldEnvironmentDay important (celebrated on 5 June)?
Generally, environmental health is directly related to human and animal health because a healthy environment is the source of clean water, clean air, as well as healthy and nutritious food inter-alia. We live in a complex system interconnected by processes and cycles, where any impact on one sub-system positively or negatively affects all other interconnected sub-systems. Therefore, creating awareness within the society by empowering the society with basic knowledge on the relationship between environmental and human health and dedicating a day for this cause is crucial.

Q: Highlights of your career so far:|
After graduation with my first degree in Soil and Water Conservation, I worked as a soil surveyor for GEDEC, Eritrea (1997). During the following five years (1997-2002), I worked as the provisional head of the agricultural engineering research unit and the Soil and Water Conservation research sub-unit at the Agricultural Research of the Ministry of Agriculture, Eritrea. Since 2010, I am a full-time lecturer of Advanced Environmental Soil Physics and irrigation management at the University of Pretoria. 

Q: Please give us a glimpse of your most recent research: 
The topic of my research area is “optimisation of soil and water resource under changing environment to secure food production”. This comprises two programmes namely: food security under changing climate, and responsible use of natural resources for sustainable food security. The former programme deals with the impact of climate change on food production, adaptation and mitigation measures, while the latter deals with the environmental safety of bio-waste use in agricultural land in a circular economy. The later study investigated the benefits of bio-waste (biosolids) use in agricultural lands as a fertiliser and soil remediation. The study also investigated the potential negative environmental impacts from pollutants (trace metals), endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs), and micro-plastics on soil microbiology, the safety of food crops for consumption, and groundwater contamination.

Q: Describe a day in the life of Prof Tesfamariam. 
During the working hours of each working day of the week, I am engaged with a combination of the following various activities. As a lecturer, I have to prepare for lectures, respond to e-mails from students, sometimes individual meetings with students, mark practicals and tests. As a supervisor of postgraduate students, I guide students in preparing their proposals, developing a workable and realistic research plan, advise students on time management, edit manuscripts for publication as well as dissertation/thesis for postgraduate students.  As a researcher, write new proposals for funding, follow up existing research projects, write deliverables for existing research projects, writing scientific manuscripts, review scientific articles for ISI rated journals, writing conference papers inter-alia,

Q: What qualities does a good scientist need?
Passion, perseverance and vision.

Q: What words/beliefs do you live by?
And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. (Genesis 2:15)

Q: Do you have any advice for prospective soil scientists?
Have passion, perseverance and vision.

- Author Martie Meyer

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