Dr. Enric Sala is a marine ecologist who studies everything from microbes to sharks. Find out what he daydreams about, what he was like as a kid, and how you can save the coral reefs!
Q: What were you like as a kid?
Sala: Restless! In the summer, I could not wait to wake up and go out and explore the little forest nearby, the meadow, and the coves on the Spanish Mediterranean coast.
Q: Do you have a hero?
Sala: When I was a kid Jacques Cousteau was my hero, and the person who inspired me to become an underwater explorer. I have many other people who inspired me after him, but he is still my all-time hero.
Q: What do you daydream about?
Sala: About being underwater, diving among sharks and beautiful corals in crystal clear tropical waters.
Q: How did you get into your field of work?
Sala: When I was a kid I spent my summer on the Spanish Mediterranean coast and had a chance to spend a lot of time swimming in the shallows and looking at marine life through my mask. Also, watching Jacques Cousteau's movies truly inspired me to become an underwater explorer. My dream was to dive with my heroes in the Seven Seas and discover new wonders.
Q: Explain what a marine ecologist is.
Sala: A marine ecologist is a scientist who studies the many species that live underwater and how they interact with each other, and with humans.
Q: What's a normal day like for you?
Sala: When I am at sea, I wake up early, have a quick breakfast and jump in the sea as soon as I can! I dive and collect data underwater three or four times every day, and after the dives I prepare the gear for the next dive, enter the data I collected in the laptop computer, and try to not forget to eat something! After dinner, I am so exhausted that I collapse in bed until the next morning.
Q: What do you do for fun or to be silly?
Sala: My job is fun all the time! We try to joke and laugh as much as we can, even underwater! Sometimes I think I don't need a vacation because I do what I like to do. I am very fortunate!
Q: What's the best place you've ever traveled to?
Sala: Kingman Reef, a virgin coral reef in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that is full of sharks and beautiful corals... and no people!
Q: What's the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you that you can share with others?
Sala: Follow your heart!
Q: Have you ever touched coral? What does it feel like?
Sala: I have touched coral, and it feels hard like a rock, with a little slimy thing on top of it. But it is better to not touch coral, to prevent damaging it.
Q: What would you suggest we do to help save coral?
Sala: There are so many things kids can do, as well as adults! Keep trying to help preserve the environment in general. Ask your parents what they are doing to save energy and recycle. Also, make sure that the seafood you eat is sustainable, and you will start a chain reaction.
Q: What's the one thing you can't travel without? (Or what's the most important item you take on your explorations?)
Sala: My fins, mask, and snorkel.
Q: What's your favorite sea creature and why?
Sala: The sharks, because they are the top predators, the tigers of the sea, and they make sure that the reefs are clean and healthy.