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Meet the caretaker of SAEON's digital scientific data


Margaret has hiked up six of the ten highest mountains in Africa, and over most of the Drakensberg escarpment - from Witzies Hoek to Qacha's Nek

In February this year, Margaret Koopman joined SAEON as the Data Librarian based at the Fynbos Node in Cape Town.

Margaret is a professional librarian with extensive experience in providing research support to agriculture, conservation biology and a suite of life sciences subjects such as agro-meteorology, hydrology, zoology and entomology. She has spent the past 12 years providing support to the ornithologists and conservation biologists at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute in Cape Town, where she ran the Niven African Ornithology Library.

For her master's degree in Environment and Development from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, she looked at the impact of land-use change in the mist-belt grassland/forest mosaic of the Byrne Valley in the Richmond area of KwaZulu-Natal.

Having recently retrained to work with scientific data, she is awaiting the results of a second master's degree in Library and Information Studies. For this degree she conducted a survey of the data management expertise and initiatives of the researchers in the Biological Sciences Department at the University of Cape Town, as well as researching international best practice in research data management.

"Managing and preserving digital data is a very challenging task - the tools are constantly improving and changing, data formats have to keep up with the technological changes and the interface to data repositories has to be user friendly,” explains Margaret.

"In the background I am an environmental historian, which is what makes me so enthusiastic about preserving data. Without long-term data there is no possibility of understanding where we are in the present with regard to our use and manipulation of natural resources.”

Margaret is passionate about the natural environment and says she is happiest when she is outdoors exploring and observing what is going on in her garden, along the roadside and in their urban mountain.

"I was fortunate to spend six years living in Ezemvelo reserves in Zululand (Hluhluwe-iMfolozi) and Northern Natal (Ithala), where my two children grew up investigating antlion pits, learning to respect snakes and how to climb trees when the rhinos got too close on our daily nature walks,” she remarks.


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