Out-of-Water Fishing Reels in Fellowships
What’s a religious Jewish girl to do if she wants to study Maritime Civilizations, but her adherence to religious precepts precludes her going into the water with men?
Edna Ethad found an answer: study fish out of the water; collect dead fish and the bones of ancient fish. Admittedly this is marine biology combined with ancient maritime civilizations, but it did not bother Ethad’s advisers, Prof. Ehud Spanier and Prof. Michal Artzi, who in fact had suggested this interdisciplinary line of investigation.
Her research has been so productive and promising that the 3rd-year graduate student found herself the recipient of two fellowships at the 31st Board of Governors Meeting. One
was a Maurice Hatter Fellowship in Maritime Studies, and the other a Thilde and Ernst Fraenkel Fellowship for the Study of Haifa and the
“I love the sea,” she told Focus when asked about her choice of studies. “Since I was a child, I never found it boring to go to the sea, to look at it. Even though I am from Zefat (Safed) high in the mountains, or may be because of that, I always found the sea to be calming. I wanted to study biology and the sea.” Ethad, who is still in the category of a “young married” and, as a married woman, wears a hat to keep her hair covered in accordance with strict Orthodox principles, had majored in biology as an undergraduate at Bar Ilan University. She illustrates points she wants to make by quoting from the Psalms and other books of the Bible.
For the past seven months, Ethad, four pails in hand, has been going to the Electric Company power station in
Ethad has been sorting the catch in the marine biology lab of the University’s Leon Recanati Institute of Maritime Studies. She records family and species, length, from which filter (since the filters are of different size), and environmental conditions like water temperature, air temperature, salinity of the water, and PH level.
What may seem routine and boring to some provides this researcher with fascination. “I keep on meeting with a new kind of fish. So far, I have collected some 45 species. Just this week, I found a beautiful, unusually shaped fish. I photographed it, as I do all the fish.
“I’ve found St. Peter’s
fish (tilapia), which you usually associate with the Kinneret (
That so many different types and sizes—up to a half-meter (foot- and-a-half) long and 4-5 kg. (9-11 lbs.) in weight—are found in one, somewhat restricted area does seem surprising, an emotion she tries to convey about her work and that in part explains her interest.
Later she will go to the Internet to gather information on the sea that day in order to make a connection between biotic and abiotic information. She also obtains information from the Ministry of Agriculture’s Fishing Division on the quantity of fish at sea, compared to the quantity by the shore.
The Electric Company has been cooperative, since the information Ethad has been gathering is important for the future operation of its filtration system. The variety of fish found, she explained, is dynamic. Change can take place in the short term. In any case, it is important for the company to know when these changes take place and what kind of fish end up in its unintended nets. There had been very limited study of this aspect prior to Ethad’s work.
The archeological phase of
Ethad’s research has to do with examining the varieties of fish bones found at the Tel Abu Huam excavation site at the
The double fellowship winner said that she could continue collecting bones from the Electric Company filters for several years, but will soon have to begin writing her thesis. “It’s a pity no one else is documenting this work,” she said.
In addition to her research,
Ethad teaches at two religious high schools in northern
Though usually eager to commute