The Adventures of Dexter and Axel Blog

Working with Wildlife - An interview with Justin Blake

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This is a new series of blogs, of interviews with some wonderful people who work within the animal industry, from zoo keepers, to museum curators and everything in between and those that are on the path to working in these positions too. Be inspired for a future where you can combine your love of animals with your day job. I hope you enjoy these interviews, that you can learn something from them and they can inspire you.

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Now let me introduce you to Justin....

Name

Justin Blake

Age 

37

Location

Cape Town, South Africa

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What do you do?

Marine Biologist and Shark Scientist

How did you get into it?

I have a lifelong passion for fish and the ocean. I learnt about a career called an ‘Ichthyologist’ when in high school and so decided to pursue a science career in ichthyology and marine biology.

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What made you want to do what you do?

I love fish and the ocean!

What does it involve?

I work where science, conservation and tourism meet. This allows me to earn an income and fund our Non Profit Organisation (tourism & conservation) while uncovering the ocean’s secrets (science) and communicating the wonders of the underwater world to the World!

Potato Bass (Grouper)

Did you need and particular qualifications? 

From an academic side, and in order to get into a science degree at University, I had to take ‘science’ subjects at school. These were maths, science, technical drawing, geography etc. I was then accepted to a Science degree at Rhodes University where I started with a broad base - geography, biology, statistics, chemistry, environmental science etc. As I progress I focussed more and more on specific subjects finally focussing on Marine biology for my Masters degree.

From a practical side: SCUBA certification (and more importantly lots of diving) has been instrumental in helping me do my underwater work - from looking after equipment, tagging sharks, manta rays and even Manatee’s, to filming and photographing sharks and other animals. I have spent hours in on and under the water - washing boats, fixing trailers, servicing equipment and everything in-between. From simple to complex tasks, the more I have practiced and done, the better and more natural I have become as a marine scientist.

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Any tips for a young person that wants to do what you do?

Volunteer and get involved doing anything, anywhere and everywhere you possible can!!!! 
The more ‘little’ things you help with the more you learn, the more comfortable you feel around the ocean, and the more passionate and people you meet along the way. Meeting lots of enthusiastic and passionate people over the years has opened many doors and opportunities for me months and years later.

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What’s the best part of what you do?

Sharing my passion and learnings with the world!
I love sharing with others the incredible stories of marine animals, and importantly highlighting solutions and ways we can all make small changes in our lives and in the lives of the people we encounter each and every day. The world heals itself - we now have the solutions to let it heal, all it takes is us to do something - our actions and influence on those around me. 

What’s your favourite animal?

Tiger shark - beautiful and just a little goofy too! :)

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What was the first animal that you fell in love with?

A pair of lyre-tailed Tanganyikan cichlids I had in a fish tank growing up (beautiful white fish from Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania)

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Surf, freedive, photography, play guitar, hike & grow indigenous plants 

If you weren’t doing what you do now what else would you love to do?

Indigenous landscaping - restoring the world to a balanced and healthy state!

Tagged bull shark

Who inspires you?

A number of businesses that create solutions to the world’s greatest problems. I aspire to create business solutions that fix the worlds environmental challenges. Sustainable ways to support passionate people working to create protected places.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about?

My favourite colour is blue!

Crab friends

Where can people find you?

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/justinblakephoto/

Website: www.rockhopper.co.za

Just On Marine weekly email briefing: https://mailchi.mp/48ecd3ded273/justonmarine

Email: [email protected]

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