Network of Women in Marine Science

Inspiring Women in Ocean Science and Conservation: Dr Zikhona Tywabi-Ngeva

Dr. Zikhona Tywabi-Ngeva is a distinguished figure in the fields of physical chemistry and material science. With a rich educational background, including a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the Durban University of Technology and a Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education from the University of KwaZulu Natal, she has established herself as a leader in her field. Her commitment to lifelong learning is further demonstrated through her participation in short courses on Intellectual Property, Technology Transfer, and Science Communication.

Her professional journey over the past four years as a Chemistry Lecturer at Nelson Mandela University in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth), South Africa, has been marked by a strong dedication to research and education. Dr. Tywabi-Ngeva’s extensive publication record in top-tier journals underscores her significant contributions to science, particularly in the areas of green chemistry and sustainable synthesis methods. These contributions not only highlight her expertise but also her commitment to environmental stewardship.

As a member of the Nelson Mandela University Enactus Business Advisory Board and the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and Environment Committee on Science and Technology in South Africa, Dr Tywabi-Ngeva plays a crucial role in shaping the future of environmental and scientific policies and practices within the region.

Her entrepreneurial spirit is evident through her founding of Alunah Smart Waste Solutions (Pty) Ltd, a consulting company focused on providing innovative waste management solutions and recycling strategies to marine waste companies. This initiative reflects her dedication to tackling environmental challenges through practical and sustainable solutions.

Furthermore, Dr Tywabi-Ngeva’s passion for community service and empowerment is showcased through the Dr ZTN Foundation. This non-profit organisation is dedicated to guiding youth and women from disadvantaged communities, offering career guidance, employment opportunities, and raising awareness on social issues. The foundation’s goal to foster a generation of change-makers in the Nelson Mandela Bay area speaks volumes of her commitment to social impact and community development.

In summary, Dr. Zikhona Tywabi-Ngeva is a prominent chemist, educator, environmental advocate, entrepreneur, and community leader whose work spans across various sectors to make a significant impact on both the scientific community and society at large. Her multifaceted career and contributions are truly inspirational, making her a role model for aspiring scientists and change-makers worldwide.

  1. Tell us, what led you to pursue a career in marine/ocean science?

I joined the marine/ocean science research area for two reasons:

  • To break stereotypes- The perspective that the ocean industry is predominantly for a certain demographic is a stereotype that I am working hard to change. My involvement as a black/African individual in this space is not only contributing to societal good by working towards ocean health and sustainability but also serves as an inspiration for others who may feel marginalized or excluded from this field.
  • To contribute to society and the environment- My work in marine science research directly contributes to societal and environmental well-being in several ways: like advancing knowledge, promoting sustainability and inspiring and educating others, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds.
  1. As a marine/ocean professional, what three critical lessons have you learned? Share your insights and experience with others who aspire to become experts in this field.

As a marine/ocean researcher, I’ve learned that the marine/ocean field is highly interdisciplinary, encompassing areas such as biology, geology, meteorology, chemistry, and engineering so collaboration is key.

The marine environment is dynamic and often unpredictable. It’s important to be adaptable and resilient, as conditions can change rapidly. This includes being able to adjust research plans, fieldwork, and management strategies in response to unexpected events such as weather changes, equipment failures, or new scientific discoveries. Flexibility is crucial for success in this field.

As a marine/ocean scientist it is extremely vital that you can effectively communicate. The communication skill helps to convey complex scientific concepts with colleagues, stakeholders, policymakers, and the public.

  1. In celebration of International Women’s Day theme “Inspire Inclusion”, what progress do you envision for women in the Western Indian Ocean region?

My vision for women in marine science in the Western Indian Ocean Region is to create an inclusive and equitable environment promoting gender equality, diversity, and inclusion within the field. This vision aims to also help empower and support women and girl children especially from rural and disadvantaged communities to pursue careers in marine science, support their professional development, and ensure they have equal opportunities and representation in research, leadership, and decision-making roles.