Meet Juan Manuel Ruiz Fernandez, the scientist featured in our Sea Grapes Google Earth Tour:
Images courtesy of Juan Manuel Ruiz Fernandez
Where do you work?
I have a permanent researcher position at the “I.E.O. = Instituto Español de Oceanografía” (Spanish Institute of Oceanography). The name of the IEO’s marine lab where I work is “Centro Oceanográfico de Murcia” (Oceanography Centre of Murcia).
What do you study?
Ecology of Mediterranean seagrasses. Interactions between seagrasses and natural and man-induced changes in key abiotic (nutrients, light, salinity and temperature) and biotic factors (epiphytes, herbivores and invasive algae), at different levels of the ecosystem organization (ecophysiology, population structure and dynamics and community).
What are three titles you would give yourself?
Marine ecologist, an underwater world enthusiast, cook (I’m specialized in cooking Mediterranean rices like paella).
What do you do when you are not in your lab?
Diving to perform experiments and samplings in the sea or diving during my free time. I’m an amateur underwater photographer. I like to do some sport like bike, swimming or running. I have two dogs (I like too much dogs) and I have large walks with them every day. I like a lot to be with friends and family. I’m 45 years old and don’t have children but I love my nephews (and my dogs).
What do you like most about doing your science?
To observe nature and discover lots (infinite) of answers and then to try to find some (although few) responses. I’m not a man of faith so I need to find these responses. I enjoy too much performing experiments in the sea, underwater, trying to manipulate some factor (light or salinity) using some kind of devices or structures that we put on the seabed to assess the responses of the seagrass, algae or other benthic organisms over time. This kind of experiments are very difficult because the storms can destroy the manipulative devices and then you can loss a lot of advanced work, but is really exciting and funny, specially when the experiment success.
We have published some highly complex experiments in which we manipulated the light availability or the seawater salinity with great success. It is also nice to see how sometimes the responses that we find to some answers that nature formulate are usefull to satisfy some needs of our society. I’m a scientist, but in some monitoring programs I like to collaborate with volunteer citizens that are also nature’s enthusiast and also need some responses. To provide them some of these responses is a wonderful feedback of my work in science. Some weeks ago, my research group received an “honourable prize” from a local university (University of Alicante) just due to this divulgative work.