STEM Story #1: Calley Chateau - Zooplankton researcher at University of Western Cape

STEM Story: Calley Chateau – A Zooplankton Researcher

Calley Chateau is a Master’s student at the University of Western Cape, South Africa. Her research is based on Zooplankton.

She is a commercial diver and an ambassador for Women in Ocean Science and an NGO called SeaTheBiggerPicture.

Her master’s project is to determine different assemblages of zooplankton found along the east coast of South Africa, and how these assemblages change seasonally. She is also looking at how important these assemblages are in the food chain and what role they play in fish stocks.

She previously worked with sharks by looking at the diversity and their abundance in kelp beds along the Cape Peninsula using BRUVS. She really enjoyed working with sharks, especially the smaller catsharks that were her target species. That project taught her a lot about sharks in general and how extremely important they are within the ecosystem. “People are so intimidated and afraid of them when in actual fact they should be amazed by them,” she says. She was so amazed that she has dived with sharks a few times even without a tank and it has been the most incredible experience for her.

After working with sharks she definitely did not think that she would ever work on zooplankton. After her honors degree, she wanted to continue working with sharks but they were approached to process zooplankton samples that were collected as part of a larger project focused on looking at whale sharks and their movement patterns along the east coast of South Africa. Naturally, she was extremely excited because all she heard was whale sharks and she fell hook line and sinker for the project. Little did she know that the project was more focused on zooplankton than actual whales and sharks. She spent the next 2 years processing samples and doing a lot of microscopy work. She went from diving and being out at sea to sitting behind a microscope.

However, by taking on this project, she says that she has gained new skills, met new people in the field, and got to travel to Zanzibar, which she was quite excited about.

That’s the beauty of working in the field that I am in, you never know what you will be working on and where it will take you,” she says.

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