Paul Cowley

As a youngster I always knew that I wanted to study fish and become an ichthyologist. My love for fish stemmed from my passion for fishing and trying to understand more about the mysterious underwater lives of these biologically diverse creatures. Not knowing what fish were doing when I couldn’t catch them led me to take a particular interest in studying their behaviour and movement ecology. As an undergraduate I never missed an opportunity to participate in research field trips and help postgraduate students with their projects. I always looked for vacation jobs that would keep me close to nature and, of course, the creatures that fascinate me. As a postgraduate student at Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, I made sure that my research projects involved lots of field work. During my MSc student days I joined the crews of research vessels on offshore cruises, and searching for samples I travelled widely around the South African coastline, often sleeping in my beach buggy. For my PhD I tackled a challenging project that found me sampling, counting and measuring fish for at least three days a week for three years. My philosophy has always been to ‘follow my heart’ and today I consider myself to be an extremely fortunate person who has turned a passion for fishing and love for fish into a career.