Zoe Nhleko standing in profile with a rhino picture. Photo provided by Zoe Nhleko
Zoe Nhleko standing in profile with a rhino picture. Photo provided by Zoe Nhleko

Zoe is an early career large mammal ecologist for the South African National Parks (SANParks) and a PhD candidate at the University of Florida. She received both her undergrad and master’s degrees in Zoology from Rhodes University. For her masters she studied the reproductive success of a black rhino population and her current research is investigating the effects of poaching on white rhino demographics, physiology, behaviour and spatial distribution in South Africa. In the past she worked as an environmental education officer for a science museum in South Africa. Zoe has a passion for informal education of young people, especially girl children and exposing them to the varied careers in science. She is a member of The Natural Resources Diversity Initiative (NRDI), a student run organization at UF that does science outreach to introduce a diverse group of students from all disciplines to the natural resources field.

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

Early bird

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?


3 Do you have any pets?


4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?

Not house decor but my computer mouse pad is a red blood cell from the South African blood service

5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?


6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?


7 Do you speak any other languages?


8 If you could switch professions, what would you do?

Architect – they would have to teach me how to draw though…

9 If you could switch science fields, what field would you want to work in?


10 If you got a plane ticket right now, where would it go?


11 If you had one superpower, what would it be?

Appear wherever I want to be without actually traveling

12 Is there anything you strongly recommend we watch and/or read and/or listen to?

Hidden Brain podcast
for reality tv fans (like me) The circle and Love is blind on Netflix

13 It’s your day off. What do you want to do?

Sleeeeeeeeeep! Why cant I ever get enough sleep??

14 What are three things you can’t live without?

sleep, podcasts and love (friendship, family etc)

15 What beverage gives you life?


16 What book did you read in school that positively shaped you?

Animal Farm

17 What did you want to be when you grew up?

A game ranger. I thought that was the only way to work with wildlife

18 What drives you and keeps you going?

The idea that the work I do could one day make a difference in conservation

19 What got you excited in science?

Trying to save animals from extinction

20 What excites you about science now?

All the new tools, methods, technology we have access to now that previous generations of scientists didn’t have. If they were able to do what they did with the limited tools and methods how much more can we do with all the technology we have. Oh the possibilities!

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

Cheetos!! If I could I would have them all day everyday…but body goals won’t allow

22 What is a secret talent of yours?

It is still a secret even to me. I still haven’t figured it out

23 What is your favorite game?


24 What is the last book you read?

I cant remember, I go through weekends when I can read more than 4 kindle books in succession without sleeping followed by months of not reading

25 What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?

People are not in the business of doing others favors so if you are invited into a space know that you deserve to be there. You belong there. This has helped when impostor syndrome sets in

26 What is something you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve been too scared to do?


27 What is the best advice for your 18 year old self?

You actually do know what you want to do with your life. Don’t stress you are allowed to change careers as many times as you want.

28 What is the best way to de-stress?

A spa day with friends, or some retail therapy with girl friends.

29 What is the last thing you watched?

Love is blind episode 3.

30 What is the weirdest thing you’ve had in your bag?

White rhino poop samples

31 What is your favorite animal?

black rhino

32 What is your favorite book?

Still grazing on the life of Hugh Masekela the jazz artist

33 What is your favorite comfort food?


34 What is your favorite day of the year?

1st of January. Everything is new, I can finally delete all texts and emails from the year before

35 What is your favorite plant?

None, but a cactus seems hardy enough to not die from my neglect so that is a potential

36 What is your favorite science fact?

That some large mammals can put off having babies in harsh conditions

37 What is your favorite season?


38 What is your favorite smell?

The soil after a light rain just started falling

39 What is your favorite sound?

rain on a metal/iron roof

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

My get on with it attitude. Once I make a decision whether in my favor or not I get on with it.

41 What is your favorite word (in any language)?


42 What is your proudest moment?

Leaving a job where I was unhappy even though I didn’t have the next job lined up yet

43 What kind of tree would you be?

Baobab tree!

44 What’s the best thing about where you live?

The weather is great…for the most part

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

All public holidays in South Africa are observed, prior to moving to the US I didn’t know there was such a thing as an unobserved public holiday.

46 Who would you like to see 46 Questions interview next?

Aerin Jacob @Aerin_J, @Sasha_Melanated, @Kolie_Yola