2018 Rolex Scolarship – Europe
The proud recipient of the 2018 Rolex Scholarship for Europe is Eric Jordà, a proud and passionate marine scientist and diver. His journey to success comes from dedication and the “tangible” need for changes in the underwater world.
Unveiling the secrets of the underwater world
71% of the surface on Earth. More than 11 Km in depth in some places. About 321,003,271 cubic miles of water. We leave in a planet where the oceans play a key role in the functioning and sustaining of the whole planetary ecosystem. Oceans control the climate, they feed us, they provide us with goods and services, they house thousands of products and substances that can heal us, they harbour extremely diverse ecosystems of incomparable beautifulness. However, paradoxically, we know less about the oceans than we know about the surface of the moon, or about the solar system!
I guess that this lack of knowledge coupled with the vastness of this blue world was what raised my curiosity early in my childhood days and pushed me to discover more about the submarine realm. Since I was a little kid, I spent my holidays snorkelling the clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea in La Costa Brava, in Catalonia, north-east of Spain. It was in the warm waters of these beautiful coves where I spent hours plunging and diving through the Posidonia meadows, feeling their gentle stroke on my belly, watching octopuses hiding between rocks and staring at dark overhanging walls full of incredible incrusting marine invertebrates.
Soon, curiosity evolved to love for these strange living organisms that seemed to care very little about the things that were happening above water, and I just wanted to be among them and be part of that world. At that time, my parents bought me the collection of “The Undersea World” documentaries from Jacques Cousteau and after watching all the episodes I told myself that I wanted to become an oceanographer.
A path to get wet
So, I moved from the big city of Barcelona, where I am originally from, and started my bachelor in Marine Science at the University of Alicante, in the south of Spain. It was after taking the marine zoology classes that I became fascinated with marine invertebrates. All those small creatures that everyone else seemed to be disgusted with were the ones I found the most exciting and interesting! Worms, sea-stars, sea-urchins, crustaceans…
During my bachelor degree, I realized that if I wanted to study and explore the inhabitants of the underwater-world I needed to be able to be part of it, and I soon realized that diving was going to be the tool that I needed. So, I was introduced to scuba diving in the warm Mediterranean waters and took all the PADI certificates up to Rescue Diver. Breathing underwater and seeing first-hand what the teachers were covering in class helped me to develop a strong feeling of obligation to protect and care about our coasts and seas.
After studying about the different underwater ecosystems, I realized that the oceans were big, veeeeery big and that the Mediterranean Sea was actually almost like a pond. A beautiful and charming pond, but a pond indeed. I soon wanted to explore other marine systems, especially from colder waters, more extreme and rough environments. So that led me to enrol myself in an ERASMUS exchange at Nord University located in Bodø, in the Norwegian Arctic. There I studied epibenthic communities in the area of the Vesterålen archipelago and learned a wide range of marine benthic taxa. I quickly fell in love with northern Norway.
A “colder” approach
However, something was telling me to go even further north to experience the high Arctic. So, I decided to study at The University Center in Svalbard in order to follow courses in Arctic Marine Biology and Arctic Environmental Management. I got the amazing opportunities to participate in marine research cruises, go sea ice sampling and drive snow scooters. By the end, I got captivated by the archipelago and its extreme landscape.
Knowing that Norway was my place, I started an MSc in Biology and Aquaculture at Nord University and returned to Svalbard periodically during 2017. I took some external courses in Underwater Robotics and in Arctic Benthic Ecology, both involving very intense fieldwork on board of the R/V Helmer Hanssen and at the polar research town of Ny-Ålesund. In November, I participated on a 12 day-long scientific cruise around Svalbard waters as a benthic research assistant.
Most recently, I have been working on my master thesis researching soft-bottom benthic communities of the deepest fjord of Northern Norway, Tysfjord. Alongside my masters, I also worked as a lab assistant for the Benthic Ecology Research Unit and I assisted in fieldwork and teaching-related activities for the undergraduate Marine Biology course at Nord University. During that time, I was also employed part-time as a field biologist performing MOM-B analysis for environmental monitoring of the seafloor in Norwegian aquaculture facilities.
A new scholarship, a new challenge
Among my interests are photography, videography and illustration. I am extremely enthusiastic about transmitting my passion for science through artistic approaches and I always try to convey to others that marine science is amazing and adventurous, as almost every day there is something new to learn and to discover.
This year I have had the extreme luck of becoming the 2018 European ROLEX Scholar of the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society, an annual scholarship that seeks to put young sea enthusiasts with worldwide leaders having projects related to the marine world to try and get as much experience as possible in different fields such as diving, science, conservation, photography and videography, education, etc. A scholarship to foster the next generation of ocean ambassadors.
PARALENZ has been extremely kind in providing me with one of their amazing cameras to document this unique and life experience and I am sure it will be an awesome tool to showcase the exciting scientific work that I am planning to get involved with during my year. I want to be the eyes of people underwater and I think that PARALENZ can help me with that. A huge thank you for your support!
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