Reem Al Mealla: Life as a Marine Biologist


Although Bahrain is an island with a rich biodiversity, a majority of us rarely find ourselves seeking peace and tranquillity in our surroundings. However, one of only two Bahraini female marine biologists, Reem Al Mealla, has always felt a connection with nature. Reem tells us what it’s like working in the field and how we can help the environment.


We’ve been told that you are a marine biologist and the youngest biodiversity environmentalist Bahraini. Could you tell us a little bit more about yourself?

I am definitely a marine and conservation biologist but not sure about being the youngest Bahraini biodiversity environmentalist as perhaps people are still coming into the field fresh out of university. When I returned in 2011, perhaps then I was the youngest. When I started out back in Bahrain, I was the only one I knew of and since then many others have come and it’s been a joy to help guide young environmentalists coming into the field over the last three years. So far, we are only two Bahraini women marine biologists on the island however I am the only one who conducts field work as a certified diver and trained to undertake underwater surveys.


Where did you study marine biology?
I did my BSc. in Marine & Freshwater Biology at the University of Essex in the UK and then I continued to getting my MSc. in Ecology, Evolution & Conservation from Imperial College London. My course was a mixture of theory and fieldwork in various ecosystems, which included being trained as a diver and to conduct underwater surveys.

You’ve chosen to move into a field that most students in Bahrain wouldn’t normally go into. What made you decide to be an environmentalist?
I think, firstly, watching the movie Free Willy when I was 12 hit hard in my mind. During my teenage years, I could not understand why people here were so disconnected from nature. I’ve always loved the sea and was fascinated by how something so huge could hold so many blessings, providing for so many people in this world. Yet we as humans are so ungrateful and destructive, always taking but never giving back – so I decided to change that attitude and be different. Gandhi hit the spot by saying ‘Be the change you want to see in this world’. I made it my mission to change the way we treat the earth that has given us everything starting from our heritage and identity to food and water, the two things that keep us alive as humans.


You published your first book about marine and biodiversity at the age of 21. Could you tell us more about it? Is it available in Bahrain?
When I did my Bachelor’s degree at Essex, my thesis was conducted on coral reefs in the Wakatobi National Park, South East Sulawesi, Indonesia. I was studying the behaviour of four species of butterfly fish and how it changes as the reef quality changes. My study also documented a rare event which is one of the species was observed to consume sponge which is meant to be toxic for them- showcasing possible resilience and plasticity. I am grateful and proud to say that I scored a distinction and was then awarded the Abel Imray Award from the University of Essex for the best outstanding research study for 2010. A year after that, my thesis was published as a book and it can be bought through Amazon or Barnes & Nobles online!

Read the rest of the article and interview here:

NB: The article was originally written and published by COEDS Magazine on the 15th of March 2015

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