The first thing to realize if you plan on enjoying life in the ATF, is that you will have to speak in public and it will happen a lot! Despite being shy sometimes, these opportunities are going to keep coming up and you have to learn to enjoy them.

You have to understand that it’s only going to get better if you face up to it and know that the earlier you start doing it the better, because the longer you wait the more pressure you’ll feel.

A few hours before my first talk at BirdLife South Africa’s Learn About Birds (LAB) conference, I got this queasy feeling in my stomach that would not go away. I didn't want to eat; I just wanted to cancel to avoid the stress. My hands got all sweaty before I got on stage. I felt like I could just run away. I then walked on stage, did what I had to do, and everything worked out well. I was pretty exhilarated by the time I was done and I began to breathe properly.

I gave a talk on the hook pod experiment that I am undertaking in the South African pelagic longline fishery. I presented the results of the hook pod experiment from 2012 in the South African pelagic longline fishery and 2013 in the Brazil pelagic longline fishery. In both experiments it was found that hook pods greatly reduced the bycatch of seabirds while not affecting fishing methods and fish catch rate.

I was surprised on how people received my talk. Everyone complimented me on the good talk I gave even though I felt as if it didn't go well at all. I was very nervous and distracted. I definitely learned some valuable lessons about confidence and engagement. Just about anything worth doing is worth doing better, which means there will always be room for improvement. That’s not a problem (in the long run); it’s merely a step along the way.

It is all part of our incredible campaign to save the albatross!

Below: A very successful two-day LAB (Learn About Birds, a mini-conference) has just been concluded. This bi-annual conference was co-hosted by BirdLife South Africa and the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. This LAB was attended by 150 ornithologists, and formed part of Flock in the 'Berg 2013. It was held in a spectacular setting at Mont Aux Sources in the northern Drakensberg. The mix of scientific and popular presentations during LAB catered for everyone, from citizen scientists to professional ornithologists. There was also time for birding and socialising, with the early morning birding outings resulting in an long bird list which includes all of the area's specials. (photo courtesy of Albert Froneman)