Former Westridge resident conducts giraffe research

Jamie Paulse has spent time with giraffes in their natural habitat.

Former Westridge resident Jamie Paulse, 29, is conducting research in studying the feeding habits of giraffes.

Ms Paulse, from the Free State, has loved working in the world of science, with animals and plants.

She has spent time with giraffes in their natural habitat and monitored what they would eat throughout the day, from sunrise to sunset.

She has graduated with her undergraduate degree in biodiversity and conservation biology in 2014 from the University of the Western Cape (UWC). Ms Paulse graduated with her Honours degree in biodiversity and conservation biology in 2015 and did an internship with the Agricultural Research Council.

In 2019, Ms Paulse graduated with a Master’s degree in biodiversity and conservation biology, focusing on wildlife management, specifically studying the feeding habits of giraffes.

Ms Paulse wanted to be a veterinarian growing up; she did a job shadowing programme and worked under a vet but later realised she couldn’t stand the sight of blood. “I get emotionally attached to animals, seeing they need to be put down when it was their time or seeing their blood left me unsettled,” she said.

She worked with the giraffes in Oudtshoorn. She is the first person to do this type of study at UWC as they do not focus on wildlife, she said.

Giraffes do not occur naturally in the Western Cape. They are usually introduced from outside the Western Cape, such as Limpopo, said Jamie Paulse.

“Giraffes do not occur naturally in the Western Cape. They are usually introduced from outside the Western Cape, such as Limpopo. I’d watch their behaviour and which plant species they’d eat, four days for every season of the year. I’d watch them every five minutes, from sunrise to sunset. I’d also measure the plants, so farmers could know how much food there was for the giraffes, and how many giraffes they could keep,” she said.

Jamie Paulse would watch the giraffes every five minutes in a day.

Her studies will be used as a baseline in scientific research. She is looking to publish her work in journals so that it can be used as a reference point.

“It was amazing working with such majestic animals. It was my first time too. I was so excited, I enjoyed working out in the field for hours away from city life. If you are passionate about something you won’t mind long hours,” she said.

Her parents were her inspiration and support. Her mother, Sheryl Paulse, 62, completed her Master’s degree in Civil Engineering when she was 59 years old. Her father, James Paulse, 65, is studying theology. Age shouldn’t prohibit people from accomplishing things, Ms Paulse said.

Jamie Paulse with her parents, James Paulse and Sheryl Paulse at her Master’s degree graduation in 2019 at the University of the Western Cape.

“I feel I am the luckiest father in the world. I am proud of her successes so far – she can achieve the unachievable,” said Mr Paulse.

“Jamie’s potential surfaced since Grade 9 in life science. She has always shown a love for animals, I never dreamed of her following a career in nature. During her Honours year I discovered her love for field work and nature. She took us around the farms in Oudtshoorn when she conducted her research – she beamed when she spoke about it. It was as if the animals knew her, they stopped in their tracks and stared at her. I am proud of her achievements; she worked hard despite challenges. Her determination truly rewarded her journey,” said her mother.

She attended Duneside Primary School in Westridge but her mother and father worked in Bellville where she then attended Boston Primary School and The Settlers High School when she was younger, she said.

When she studied the giraffes in the field, she could hear a leopard in the field. They had a normal car and no bakkie and had to look for the giraffes on foot. She also encountered a boomslang. “I saw the snake and could hear the snake hissing in the bush but we backed away and left it. No one was injured but we are bound to have these encounters. I enjoy things like that,” she said.

Ms Paulse is currently a junior lecturer in Animal Science at the University of the Free State. She has applied to do her PhD in grassland science, to study how different farming systems influence the soil, animals and vegetation, she said.

Jamie Paulse will be doing her PhD at the University of the Free State to study how different farming systems influence the soil, animals and vegetation.

She also appeared in some documentaries such as 50/50 in 2018 and an international documentary called Catching Giants in 2017.

Colleague and PhD supervisor, Paul Malan said Ms Paulse is dedicated to her work and is recognised as a very good lecturer. “She has a sparkling personality and has a positive outlook on life. She relates very well to her students. It is good to have her as a colleague too. She is very excited about her PhD research topic and becoming an expert in her field,” he said.

Ms Paulse said the best part about her job is being in the field, ”I’ve seen many places especially since I’ve moved to the Free State for work,” she said.

“What helped me on my journey was setting goals for myself and making sure I achieve them. I worked hard; no matter how small the goal, I gave my all. You will go much further in life with setting goals and pursuing them,” she said.