Before going to Africa for three months, I already considered myself quite a strong leader and not afraid to take charge of a situation that needed guidance. Although this idea of myself didn’t really change during my internship, I did learn a few things about leadership that could be useful in the future.
During my internship, the intern coordinator and head of data collection moved to a new job, but a there was no replacement for her until September. During the period without a head of data collection, everyone had their own plans to changing the way the data was collected and stored, but no one communicated this to each other. Therefore, the interns collected data differently each day depending on who took them out. As an intern it was not my place to judge or criticize the methods of each of my supervisors, however, if they had communicated with each other data would have been more accurate, more precise, and easier to analyze using one method.
Another situation with bad leadership involved researchers coming to the game reserve to collect data for their Masters or PhDs. Sometimes there was a team of researchers who had a plan worked out and new what they needed to achieve while on the reserve, but others just went with the flow of things and assumed the coordinators would help them get the right data for their projects. Because of the mishmash of staff at the time a lot of people had no idea who the researchers were or what they needed and oftentimes the researchers wouldn’t take charge and get done what needed to be done.
In both of these situations a strong leader was necessary. One person from the staff should have taken over the data collection and sat down the interns and everyone else involved to lay down the rules of what was changing, why, and what needed to be priority. Also, one person from each research team that came to the reserve should have sat down the coordinators, laid out their project, and made it explicit what they needed to achieve. Witnessing these things made me realize how important it is to have a strong leader, especially when it comes to research and data work. I think that this experience has been valuable to me so that I can take charge of my studies properly in the upcoming years.