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Laila photoLailah Gifty Akita is a scientist from Ghana who is pursuing her doctorate in geosciences with a specialization in historical geology at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany. She seeks to understand habitat ecology of ostracods and aquatic ecosystems response to environmental and climate changes through time on the southern Tibetan Plateau. Why is it important? The Tibetan plateau is the world’s largest water reservoir. It is covered by all types of aquatic ecosystems; large number of lakes (fresh, brackish and saline), ponds, springs, wetlands and source of Asia major river systems (e.g., Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, Mekong, Salween etc). Micro-benthic organisms (e.g., ostracods) and aquatic ecosystems of high-mountain regions are sensitive index of ecological and environmental change, hence the need for environmental research in the region.

What is your current research and why is it important for science?

My PhD-Project is titled “Ostracods as environmental bioindicators of aquatic ecosystems changes on southern the Tibetan Plateau”. The Tibetan Plateau, the world’s highest plateau, has an important role in the maintenance of the rich biodiversity, water resources and Tibetan livelihoods. The water (hydrological) cycle in alpine environments is a source of freshwaters; providing drinking water for half of humanity living downstream of rivers, regularly supply of water to aquatic ecosystems (e.g., rivers, lakes and wetlands), agriculture, irrigation and many more. The Tibetan Plateau is vulnerable to global climate change and human activities. Climate change will alter the water cycle, affecting fresh water supply and indirectly livelihoods in mountainous region. To understand the environmental and climate change impacts on aquatic ecosystems on southern Tibetan Plateau, we examined ostracods (small aquatic crustaceans) as sensitive ecological indicators for palaeo-limnological and environmental reconstructions in the region.

The Tibetan plateau is the world’s largest water reservoir. It is covered by all types of aquatic ecosystems; large number of lakes (fresh, brackish and saline), ponds, springs, wetlands and source of Asia major river systems (e.g., Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, Mekong, Salween etc). Micro-benthic organisms (e.g., ostracods) and aquatic ecosystems of high-mountain regions are sensitive index of ecological and environmental change, hence the need for environmental research in the region. The primary aim is to evaluate ecology and palaeoenvironment of ostracods in a large brackish lake, Tangra Yumco and adjacent waters on the southern Tibetan Plateau. The lake is located at the intersection of the India monsoon.

It’s important to science because of its contributions to the knowledge on habitat ecology of Recent Ostracods from Tangra Yumco and adjacent waters on the southern Tibetan Plateau.
The ecological database will guide research and policy for the protection of high-altitude aquatic ecosystems and micro-crustaceans from climate change impacts.
This will increase understanding of “Holocene environmental change” on southern the Tibetan Plateau.

Finally, my research will raise awareness on interlink environment and sustainable development involving educationists, scientific community, non-government sectors and industry for the protection, conservation and integrated management of the natural aquatic species and ecosystems.

What led you to science?

My interest in science began with the introduction of the subject in Junior High School. I attended Osu Presbyterian Girl’s School, Osu-Accra, Ghana. My favourite’s subjects were general science and agricultural science. I love these subjects and wishes for further exploration in the field. However, as above average student, in the choice of subjects for Senior High School, my teachers suggested Arts (literature) as a first choice and Science as a second choice.

A blessing in disguise, I didn’t get my first choice of Senior High School (where I would have studied Arts). Miraculously, I was admitted to study Science (my second choice) at Ghana Secondary School, Koforidua-Eastern-Region, Ghana. It was a great privilege to fulfill my passion and curiosity! The main subjects were Biology, Chemistry and Physics. It was field of adventure and exciting wonder.

There was a chance for change the subject but I love science, so I remain in the science class (3 years) and graduate successfully. Many opportunities we may miss, if we don’t listen to our inner instincts. Good mentorship is essential for one’s success in life. The science teachers at Senior High School were most influential and they played a role in laying a good foundation for my science interest.

I further pursued in-depth knowledge to satisfy my scientific curiosity and adventure at tertiary level (education). My motivation: The courage to dare, strong-minded and passionate desire for scientific research. Access to scholarships was necessary for the fulfillment of my scientific adventure. Furthermore, participation in local and international workshops, conference and courses, expanded my knowledge and networks in the field of science. Above all, connecting with scientific role models and mentors, who provided continue mentorship and guidance greatly contribute to my professional development and success.

What opportunities in your field have significantly helped you in your career?

I am so thankful for the opportunities, I have had in life. I am a lady will never stop trying and always seeking for new adventures. Even, if I don’t know where the road may end, I still keep travelling. I love to explore and experiment! You never know! It is better to try and fail than never trying. When I succeed, I still seek for new voyages. So long as we have the grace to live life, we should keep learning, keep believing and keep seeking.

The opportunities are enormous. I would like to briefly mention first exposures and participation:

  • Award of fellowship by the African American Institute (AAI)- Association of African Universities (AAU): First Data Western Union Foundation Africa Scholarship Fund, and by the Canadian Bureau for International Education (“CBIE”) for postgraduate training in Ghana.
  • Local workshop: First Regional Experts Working Group on Plankton and Benthos Analyses in Ghana.
  • International workshop: ‘Milankovitch Cycle for Past 5years’ held by International Center for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Trieste, Italy.

There are so many opportunities waiting for the person who dare seeks. Find your passion and live it. Go explore your beautiful world.

What advice would you offer to aspiring scientists?

Young people must have confidence in themselves and have courage to dare greater things. We are all capable beyond measure. They must pursue their passion regardless of what others may think. Have confidence in your abilities. Believe in your dreams and enthusiastically pursue your passion. There is no limit to what you are capable of achieving.