Emily Capuli – Three decades at FishBase

Emily Capuli says that when she started working for FishBase three decades ago, her hair was darker and longer. She may look different now but her interest in documenting the fishes found globally has not changed a bit. She continues to do this by ‘fishing’ for new species and documenting taxonomic changes in FishBase. This is what Emily has been doing for the past 30 years.

The marine biologist joined the FishBase team right after completing her master’s degree at the University of the Philippines. Her goal was to do something different from the field and lab work she had been conducting during her studies.

“The first work I did for FishBase included documenting the fishes found in the Philippines and I still continue doing it to this day. I find it a very important work to do for my country,” Emily said. “More importantly, I enjoy working on the taxonomic aspect of FishBase, the development and creation of tools using the species data.”

From team leader to ‘theme’ leader

From research assistant at different levels, Emily became a senior research associate in 2003 thanks to the work she started doing with an increasing number of taxonomists, focusing on the development and evolution of the database.

“Rainer (Froese) called me a team leader then and after 30 years of working mainly on species taxonomy, I’m now called a ‘theme leader’ for taxonomy involved with FishBase and SeaLifeBase,” she said. “Come to think of it, the spelling of the title also evolved!”

For Emily, all projects she has worked on have been rewarding in one way or another but one of the things she appreciates the most in her career is the mentorship she acquires from colleagues and other scientists on all-things FishBase/SeaLifeBase and, thus, promoting a better understanding of life below water.

Learning more about aquatic biodiversity can be both a lifelong interest and a challenge. Emily believes there are hundreds of projects that can be done using the wealth of information in FishBase and SeaLifeBase but the key is finding the time, resources and people to carry them out.

“I really hope FishBase and SeaLifeBase go on forever and that we are succeeded by ‘new species’ of dedicated people who will have new vision and foresight to sustain these Global Species Databases,” she said.

Remember to have fun

On the lighter side of things, Emily has had fun getting to know all the different people that have been involved with the project throughout the years. Informal settings, such as music jams held at Rainer’s place ‘back in the day’ have been important team-building opportunities where Emily got to know people beyond the professional level and make lasting friends.

This interview is part of a series of digital campaigns produced to celebrate the FishBase and SeaLifeBase anniversaries in cooperation with Sea Around Us.

Click here to view the poster version of this article.



About Joann Glorioso

Events Coordinator / Communications & Public Relations Officer

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