A Q&A with Marine Biologist Azade Simavi: “The purpose of the world protection is to keep the system in balance”
What is marine biology? Marine biologist Azade Simavi talks to us about her passion that she turned into a career.
Humanity has been able to present an extensive knowledge on the science of astronomy, other planets, stars and the galaxy. But what about marine biology? What is going on in the depths of our seas?
The ocean covers more than 70 per cent of the surface of our planet. However, while the threat oceans face are increasing every single day, perhaps marine biology is more important than you think.
Azade Simavi is among those that seek happiness in oceans. To be precise, in the depths of oceans. The Istanbul-born Mediterranean lover says she has been spending her summers near the sea. Not surprisingly, this helped her to connect and bond with the sea and what it has to offer at a very young age. Her admiration for the sea has grown over the years and determined her current researcher and fisherman lifestyle.
- Where did you study? How did you decide to choose this profession?
From kindergarten to high school, I have attended the Lycée Français Pierre Loti d’Istanbul. Then I studied Earth, Sky and Ocean Science at the Université de la Méditerranée in Marseille. For my master’s degree, I studied stream ecosystems at the Université du Québec in Montréal and then continued my studies in northern Canada. However, in the end I have realised that I can no longer be away from the Mediterranean and returned to Turkey.
- Where do you live at the moment?
I live in Bodrum, Muğla, Turkey.
- Which sea creatures/mammals do you study?
My interests are predatory fish and sustainable fishing. Usually we work with big fishes. Predatory fishes stabilise prey populations, so the extinction of them can affect the entire ecosystem. Among these fishes are cynarite, leer, tuna, bluefish etc.
- What is a typical day like for you?
I can say that every day is different. The weather conditions or seasons affect our work a lot.
I usually work on projects at a certain part of the day and then go fishing. Nowadays, the squid population has increased. I go fishing to catch squids, clean it and put it in the freezer for winter. Of course, I also have to take care of my garden every day. Catching, growing and cooking my own food; sustainably fills a great deal of my life.
- What is your favourite sea creature and why?
The ones I can fish and eat! Jokes aside, I love spending time with octopuses when I dive. Or I find bluefin tuna very fascinating. Their speed, migration, body structures.
- Which sea creature is the smartest?
It is a controversial question. Usually dolphin, orca, and octopus are at the top of the list.
- Have you ever worked with a killer whale or shark? If yes, how does it feel, were you scared?
I had the chance to do shark diving with biologists on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas.
Because the Mediterranean is rather shy, I have only come across sharks there once or twice, even though they were far away. I know I should not be scared by them because my interest is the sea. Usually they are very shy animals and very afraid of us humans. I wish I could encounter more of these fascinating animals every time I swim.
- Do you not feel an emotional connection to the creatures you are working on or studying?
This is a question I often come across. Because I have been fishing my own fish for years. I also love to dive and take out my own sea urchin or oyster and eat it. I often get asked questions about how you can fish and kill when you need to protect the environment. The purpose of world protection is to keep the system in balance. This is done with the knowledge of which species can be hunted and under what conditions and how to provide the necessary environment for its survival. My job is to protect and maintain the marine ecosystem. If we do not tire our seas excessively, it is an endless resource.
- Are sea creatures in the Mediterranean endangered? Why is that? And most importantly, what can people do to help?
Sea creatures in the Mediterranean are under great threat. The biggest reasons are excessive and uncontrolled hunting, sea pollution, uncontrolled construction and the proliferation of invasive species that come to the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal. Our seas are getting warmer every day and their ecosystem is changing because of all these threats. Otherwise, the Mediterranean will lose its identity very soon. People can do many things to help: support marine conservation organizations, ask where the seafood they buy comes from and make more sustainable choices (support small-scale fishing), use environmentally friendly products, and most importantly, spread this information around them.
- How many people do you work with?
Each project is very different from each other, the number of people can vary greatly.
- How is your working order? How often do you work with animals? How often are you in the laboratory?
The working order differs a lot from project to project. In some studies, however, laboratory or field studies are more dominant. But I can say that a large part is spent with bureaucracy.
- What are some important things one should know before becoming a marine biologist? What advice would you give someone to choose this career field?
When it comes to marine biology, the first thing that comes to mind is working with dolphins and whales. However, it is a science with a very wide field of study and it covers 70% of our world. Chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics… It is an endless field of study that includes all sciences. It covers a wide spectrum from the pharmaceutical industry to the energy field. Unfortunately, the importance of seas in our lives is still unknown today. We have space technology, but we still don’t know what’s going on under the sea, which shows how broad and open to research the subject is. That is why I think this profession does not get the necessary attention. I hope it changes soon.
- What do you enjoy the most about your job?
As with any profession, there are challenges. But usually I am almost always happy while doing my job. We can say it is a part of my life, not work. That is why I enjoy every moment of it. Without nature, people cannot live. Anyway, my main purpose in choosing this profession and lifestyle is to support the protection of the living spaces of all living things around me.