Erin Love - Microbiology - Meercat research in South Africa
For her final co-operative education work term placement, Erin Love (microbiology) spent a couple of months hanging out with meerkats in South Africa.
Erin had spent her first three work terms in laboratory positions, so she jumped at the chance to work overseas. She loved her experiences observing and compiling data on her furry little friends, a meerkat population in Northern South Africa, at the Cambridge University-owned Kalahari Meerkat Project in the Kuruman River Reserve.
Erin was volunteering alongside her husband, who's studying at Cambridge and will eventually use the gathered data for further studies.
"I think that it's really important to pursue getting the broadest types of experience you can over the course of your four work terms so that you get a taste of this job, a taste of that job," said Erin. She believes her latest co-op work term will be a valuable addition to her résumé, but she also says it was an exciting adventure that she couldn't pass up.
Erin would wake up at 4:00 a.m. each day, then make her way to the meerkat burrow. Working during mating season, Erin oversaw a large brood of the friendly creatures. Slowly, the meerkats became comfortable around her and even let her weigh them regularly.
"They treat us like they treat cows," said Erin. "They glance up at you, then go back to what they're doing."
Over the course of herwork term Erin observed that the meerkats were co-operative animals that live in a close-knit community. The animals took turns grooming each other, guarding the group from predators and foraging for food.
Erin was especially interested in the phenomena of sympathetic lactation, which meant female meerkats would help nurse other mothers' babies. "They really were amazing, the way they would communally raise young," she said.
"I've had good and bad co-op experiences," Erin said, noting that she doesn't regret any of her work terms. "Each experience has taught me something unique, about both myself and about my interest in different types of jobs."
In the next couple years, Erin plans to apply to medical school, with the goal of becoming a doctor, and possibly a general practitioner. "My work terms have taught me that I really enjoy working with people, and I'm excited about the future."