Nasreen Peer

Ecologist

Nasreen Peer became entranced by all things marine on trips to the beach as a kid. This exploded into full-blown love when she realised she could study ecology. People did try and trample on her dream by telling her that she would not make money and was squandering her talents. But this only made her more determined, partly to show these people that she could do what they doubted she could.

Narrowing her love down, she has put her focus into researching true crabs at St Lucia in KwaZulu-Natal (many other species such as hermit crabs and king crabs are not true crabs). Following them in extensive detail creates a trove of data about how they respond to small changes in their environment. She then links this to work by other researchers in the area to get a broader picture of the ways in which key species are responding to the changing climate of their home. The small things are important. Accuracy is key. This is her speciality – applying infinite patience to recording exhaustive detail.

Her expertise means she spends a lot of time presenting her findings on public platforms. This gives her new ideas for her research, with people in the audience raising questions that push her in new directions. A big network of family and friends constantly reminds her that she has the capacity to do what she wants. Knowing how much she has to be grateful for helps her to overcome any setbacks.

She wants to use the confidence she gets from friends and family to start teaching people – especially children – to ask the right questions and seek their own answers, instead of trying to lobby policymakers to make the right decisions. “The greatest change happens when people take control over their own environment, instead of waiting for an outside force to look after it,” says Peer. “People that just complain frustrate me, to such an extent that I think that it should be a punishable sin!”

She escapes negativity by reading and watching television series, with more focus on the former. Surfing and swimming keep her healthy. But in recent months archery and Dungeons and Dragons have quickly overtaken these other pursuits.