Who I am
When I was eight, my parents took me to the coast for a holiday and I felt deeply attracted to the ocean, not least for its sheer size. In the latter stages of my school career I spent extra time studying zoology because I enjoyed it and this led to me studying for a degree in the subject. Once I became a student I spent a lot of time observing a wide range of creatures, from birds and butterflies to amphibians, nocturnal mammals and native fish. And yet I didn’t feel satisfied. In my third year of study I volunteered to research the diversity of marine fish along Bangladesh’s coastal region, as I already had some experience in field work. During this study, I saw large marine animals for the first time and became interested in these incredible creatures. At the same time, I became concerned about the overexploitation of elasmobranchs.
Later I studied the elasmobranchs of Bangladesh and was surprised to learn that most of the species are in serious danger of becoming extinct. Despite legislation, the harvesting of elasmobranchs and trade in the various species continues and awareness campaigns to highlight threats to them seem to have limited effect. While I was investigating the reasons for this, I became aware that no research had been carried out on the basic life history of this group, such as reproduction, ecology, feeding behaviour and migration patterns. It seemed to me that fundamental research could be carried out in this field and at the same time its results could be applied to conservation efforts. This kind of work is very challenging, but I enjoy challenges and especially the feeling of satisfaction they bring.
Where I work
I am currently studying for my MSc, specialising in fisheries, at the Department of Zoology at Jagannath University in Bangladesh. At the same time I am working as a research student at Advance Fisheries & DNA Barcoding Laboratory in the Department of Zoology at the University of Dhaka, and conducting several molecular-level research projects on elasmobranch species. I am also carrying out biological and ecological research on sharks and rays and am connected to several projects that give me the opportunity to work along the entire coast of Bangladesh. The country’s coastal zone covers an area of 47,201 square kilometres (18,224 square miles) and is home to about 35 million people, representing 29% of the Bangladeshi population. A huge number of these people depend on the ocean for their livelihood. Bangladesh is one of the major sources of shark and ray products. The high demand for meat and fins, as well as other body parts for traditional medicine, influences fishers to target many species that are globally highly threatened and to keep those they catch incidentally, even when it is illegal to do so. Huge population pressure, poverty and lack of education make it very challenging to establish conservation initiatives without fundamental research in this region.
What I do
At present, as a part of my MSc thesis, I am studying the reproductive biology of the globally Critically Endangered scalloped hammerhead shark Sphyrna lewini in the Bay of Bengal. By means of questionnaires, I also conduct surveys on the life and work of fishers in coastal areas and what they think about marine life. I have been working as a research student in the Advance Fisheries and DNA Barcoding Laboratory since 2020, where my key responsibilities are collecting samples, identifying morphology, extracting DNA, collecting field data and writing reports. Recently I have worked as a student intern at the Wildlife Conservation Society, Bangladesh, where my key responsibilities include conducting an awareness campaign among fishers in the coastal region and carrying out a survey by questionnaire.