Lessons in Leadership: Integrating Courage, Vision, and Innovation for the Future of Sustainable Fisheries
Fishery Science, Teaching, Leading, and Work-Life Balance
Rose Emma Mamaa Entsua-Mensah
My interest in fisheries began after a lecture by Dr. Steve Dadzie to final-year zoology students at the University of Cape Coast. He was one of the prominent fishery scientists in Africa in the 1980s. Listening to him, I realized how beautiful and interesting fish were. In 1991, I went to work as a research scientist for the Institute of Aquatic Biology of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Ghana. As I studied and read more about fish, my interest was piqued. I studied fish ecology and management, especially traditional management. Traditional management is a cultural way of ensuring that the fish in the water bodies grow to maturity and breed without being disturbed. They are also meant to regulate the harvesting of fish, preserve water quality, and conserve the mangroves around lagoons. Later on, in 2010, I went on to assess the status of freshwater fish in West Africa for the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
I enjoyed my work as a research scientist for the CSIR at the Institute of Aquatic Biology and later at the Water Research Institute in Ghana. I was part of the original FishBase project. This was a fish database developed by the International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management, now WorldFish. I loved going to the field, interacting with the fishermen, and studying coastal ecosystems and other freshwater bodies. I just loved my work, so it was no problem writing papers, meeting deadlines, and writing proposals. You have to enjoy what you do and be passionate about your work to succeed. Every year, I set goals for myself; sometimes, I met them sometimes I did not, but it kept me focused. On a few occasions, I took my three small children with me when I went to collect samples. It was just convenient, so I did not have to worry too much about them.
Doing my Ph.D. under Professor Ian Cowx was an eye opener. His exceptional scientific acumen, organizational abilities, and communication skills made a huge impression on me. Ian was a very good mentor. Later on, as head of the Fishery Division at the Water Research Institute and then as deputy-director general of the CSIR, I sought to emulate Ian’s attributes as best as I could. I communicated well with the scientists working under me, I asked for feedback and got a reputation of always asking for reports after every field trip and at the end of every project, and I met with my staff regularly and enjoyed building a team. As an educator, having taught at the University of Education, Winneba (2001–2003), the University of Cape Coast (2006–2009), and summer school at the University of Tennessee (2005), I mentored and taught a lot of young scientists at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. I allowed them to express themselves, took their opinions into consideration, and encouraged them. I went with them on a number of ecological field trips.