Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday Soil Scientist: Makhosazana

Meet Makhosazana Sika: Mad about Mollisols, Biochar Queen, Lover of Life!

Makhosazana grew up in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa. Having lived in a city throughout her childhood, she would not have guessed a decade ago that she would call a small town in the Cape Winelands District her other home. She enrolled at Stellenbosch University to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Viticulture and Oenology because she wanted to become a winemaker. During her second year at varsity, she had her first Soil Science module in chemistry and fertility. She recalls a sparkle and passion in her former Soil Science professor’s eyes that made her seriously consider a career in the field of Soil Science. Makhosazana read up on career prospects in the discipline, sought guidance from people in the profession, her parents and then ultimately made the decision to study soil.

Although South Africa has its own unique soil classification system, Makhosazana’s favourite soil is the Mollisol. She particularly likes it because of its defining property of being highly arable due to the accumulation of humus on the soil surface horizon. She also identifies with Mollisols because of their rich dark colour that makes her think of biochar, her research interest. Makhosazana’s Master’s research was on the effect of applying locally produced biochar on the chemistry and fertility of low-nutrient holding sandy soil from the Western Cape, South Africa. Her love for soil and biochar research is on the rise as she is pursuing a PhD in her field.

For Makhosazana, a career in Soil Science is well balanced. Her favourite number is three and her chosen field of study has allowed her to be flexible. For example, she gets to wear camouflaged clothes when playing with soil in the field, dress up in her lab coat when running laboratory experiments, and rock up in cute sandals or heels for data analysis in her office. It’s a win-win-win situation!

You can contact or follow Makhosazana at @mp_thefirst

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