EAF-Nansen Programme

Women scientists aboard the Nansen: Meet Mouna Elqendouci

Mouna Elqendouci

The #EAFNansen continues its maiden journey along the coast of northwest and western Africa.

As we’ve done in the past, we’re taking the opportunity to spotlight some of the women scientists on board and to ask them how they selected a career in the marine scientists, what they find most challenging and rewarding during their time aboard the Nansen, and the advice they would offer to young girls dreaming of a similar career path.

On this voyage, we’ve already brought you a profile of  Moroccan Hinde Abdelouhahab and Spaniard Alba Jurado-Ruzafa.

Now it is time for us to meet another Moroccan scientist, Mouna Elqendouci.

Where are you from and what is your current position?

My name is Mouna Elqendouci and I am from Morocco. I am 24 years old and I’m currently in my second  year of my PhD at the University of Mohammed V in Rabat.

Mouna and her teammates get to work sorting fish on the Nansen deck after the trawl.
Talk about hands-on research. Mouna prepares to study her new subjects in the lab.
Work on the Nansen also means long hours in the laboratories. Mouna and her colleagues conduct research in the Nansen’s eight laboratories.

I study and carry out my research work in collaboration with thelaboratory of biology and ecology in the National Marine Research Institute of Casablanca.

I am involved in the EU-project Data Collection Framework, monitoring industrial and artisanal Spanish fisheries (and the related marine species) in the area.

Where did you complete your studies, and what are your areas of expertise?

I graduated with a Masters Degree in Management and Development of Marine Resources. Through these studies, I gained a solid knowledge of biology through the study of the biology and ecology of plankton, marine pollution and Ecotoxicology, also Aquaculture and Parasitology. Actually, my PhD subject concerns the Biology of anchovy Engraulis encrasicolus (Linnaeus, 1758), which was explored along the Moroccan Atlantic coast.

How did you first decide to study science? Did you have important teachers or mentors who encouraged you in your choice?

Actually, I don’t know exactly why, but I always knew that I wanted to study Marine Biology.

My decision to pursue a career in science began with a passion that developed at a young age. I grew up extremely interested in the sciences, and that interest pushed me to reach good scientific level.

I always loved nature and marine life, but also growing up in country like Morocco - with its rich fisheries resources along two (Atlantic and Mediterranean) seafronts, motivated me even more to continue in this field so that I can contribute to the sustainable development of resources of my country.

How do you feel your research experience aboard the Nansen will affect your career or studies? What are you learning that is most useful to you?

I think that this experience has helped me a lot. It allows me to deepen my knowledge in different areas of ocean research, and I also have the opportunity to meet talented international scientists and to exchange scientific information with them.

I have learned more about the marine domain through experimentation and observation, which are two essential points for any scientist.

I was very lucky to have had this opportunity to gain experience for the first time on board R/V Dr. Fridtjof Nansen, and I would also like to say what a good time I had working with my team – the time together passed so quickly!  I want to take this opportunity to thank all the scientific team who participated in the mission.

What do you find most difficult or challenging about this type of experience?

The most difficult aspect about this type of experience is the adaptation of the brain to a particular biological rhythm (e.g. too little sleep!) that we must properly follow in order to be the most productive in our work.

What advice would you offer to a young girl who dreams of studying marine biology, fisheries, or other areas of ocean research?

Knowledge for a researcher is a regular desire that grows each day. For me, this is even more fascinating to seek discoveries in the oceanic world, since it is not visible as life on earth.

This hidden aspect of the topics I study provides me with an enormous curiosity of discovery.

And as my father always told me when I was a young girl, whatever path you wish follow in the future, whether you are a man or a woman, it is always hard work and perseverance that determines what we will achieve in life.

Thank you – Shukran, Mouna!  We appreciate your having taken the time to answer our questions and sharing your passion for marine research.

With so many fish in the sea, where to begin? Mouna and fellow scientists after the trawl.

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