By Dr Nelson Miranda
Dr Nasreen Peer and Dr Nelson Miranda both come from specialized scientific professional fields and realized the need to bridge the gap between science and business. They felt as though it was paramount that they were more accessible to work together with people in natural environments than simply being confined to the walls of a research lab. After all, scientists are just people too and science and exploration should be for everyone. The Sealand Crew met them at the last beach cleanup and were enamored by their story.
“We founded Argonaut Science, a small company contributing to a big vision in South Africa. A new society and new economy, which can be achieved through youth-led entrepreneurship. We focus on the development of scientific skills and the blue economy. We address professional development at a grassroots level, including specialist consulting, science education, citizen science and ecotourism.
We feel that everyone is inherently curious about the world around them. Despite our differences, we are also all connected in many ways with and through the natural environment. But these connections are not always obvious. Being aware of even the smallest of connections can change the way we interact with the planet and its people. We certainly know that if some of us change the way we interact, even in small ways, this can cause a chain effect which can have a very big impact in the world (e.g.: viral social media and yes, even the current viral pandemic). But how can we work on understanding what is going on around us in our very complex and wonderful world?
We believe we should be continuously working towards helping everyone to explore and understand their own environment. You don’t have to go far to be amazed at the natural living world, you simply have to start noticing the small things around you. If we all agree there is value in doing this, then it can become a valuable activity that can become entrenched in the culture of local business.
From grass roots (or seaweed holdfasts)
It is important to work with what we have, and what better base than the natural environment around us! Argonaut Science combines citizen science, which involves activities and projects that collect information (data) which can be useful to better understand changes in the world around us, and nature tours in and by the ocean, thus presenting a unique and accessible ecotourism experience.
We use apps like iNaturalist (www.inaturalist.org) and build gadgets like homemade microscopes to explore the amazing diversity of life around us, ranging from large animals to small, microscopic plankton. We may be able to better understand the impact of solid waste on the diversity of life by simply documenting the organisms that settle in marine debris and litter. We sometimes call these organisms “litterbugs”. Some of them are not native to South Africa and may be spread by plastic debris, thus potentially affecting biodiversity and changing our coastline. Like an alien invasion arriving on plastic spaceships.
The use of smartphones in this work allows us to practice digital and geospatial literacy, but we can also literally immerse ourselves in the aquatic environment. And if you cannot swim, snorkel or freedive, you can choose to remain on land and do shore-based work, but we can also teach you necessary water skills and promise to keep you safe on our watch. Our business model is set to bring together people from different backgrounds. We use part of the income from customers from affluent backgrounds to enable other people to join us, who could not otherwise afford it. In the end, everyone’s experience is enriched as we realize that regardless of your background, everyone can have valuable inputs and knowledge to share.
The aforementioned strategy overlaps with our community work and outreach projects involving children. Working together with NGOs, teachers, youth leaders and children, we design science education programs that align with the principles of ocean literacy as well as national education standards. The aim is to cooperate to combine community work, outreach, ecotourism and science in a way that is beneficial to all and shows the inclusive spirit of our catch phrase "because science and exploration belong to everyone".
Small business and social development should be the norm. We believe encouraging and supporting small local businesses is part of the work for a better future. We see firsthand some of the big multifaceted issues the world faces today. From environmental and climate change matters to living in a divided society struggling to change for the better, while dealing with problems like unemployment and gender disparities. It can be overwhelming in many ways. We firmly believe that solutions can be more effective and sustainable when they come from the bottom-up, which means you are never too small to make a difference.
We should always be open to learning more about what small businesses and local people, particularly the youth, are doing to address big issues from the bottom-up. Taking the time to acknowledge the people who provide services and make products is a good exercise in gratitude and also in line with the ethics of recognition and ownership, which is something we should strive to do as we build our society and economy.”
Get in touchIf you want to learn more about being a scientist, or come with us on a tour of coastal areas, learn how to build water skills and freedive, or expand your understanding of marine science on our shores, if you need specialist consulting for a project or just want to learn about how to make and use your own citizen science tools, then visit our website www.argonautscience.com.