Dr Fiona Gell trained as a marine biologist and did her PhD research on seagrass meadows in the remote Quirimba Archipelago in Mozambique. She returned to the island to work as a lecturer at Port Erin Marine Laboratory and then became the Isle of Man Government’s first marine conservation officer. She is now a marine conservation and climate consultant and writer. She has written about marine conservation for The Guardian, recently championed Manx marine life in BBC Countryfile Magazine and her book Spring Tides: Exploring marine life on the Isle of Man was published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in 2022.
1. The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey
This magical book is a love story about a fisherman and a mermaid. Monique Roffey is one of my favourite writers and I was so pleased when this book won the Costa Book of the Year Award, and I still can’t quite believe that I have her endorsement on the cover of Spring Tides.
2. The World is Blue by Sylvia Earle
Sylvia Earle is a brilliantly inspiring marine biologist and conservationist. This book is a great introduction to marine conservation and a call to action for the ocean.
3. The Brilliant Abyss by Helen Scales
This wonderful book takes us exploring into the deepest seas, which are so important for remarkable species and habitats but also at risk from deep sea mining and other impacts.
4. A Fish Caught in Time by Samantha Weinberg
I have always been fascinated by coelacanths and this is the story of how they were thought only to exist as fossils until a young museum curator found an unusual specimen on board a fishing boat and knew it was something special.
5. Reef Life by Callum Roberts
Whilst I dearly love the Manx marine habitats like horse mussel reefs and eelgrass meadows featured in Spring Tides, I’ve been very lucky to work on breath-taking coral reefs around the world, some with the author of this book, which is a celebration of coral reefs and a reminder of the climate and conservation action needed to save them.
6. The Edge of the Sea by Rachel Carson
Rachel Carson is a heroine of mine and most famous for Silent Spring but her books about the ocean are enchanting. I read this one as a teenager and it was definitely an inspiration to write about the sea in Spring Tides.
7. The Bones of Grace by Tahmima Anam
‘Grace’ in the title is a fossil Ambulocetus – an early precursor to the whale, and this memorable love story has two marine themes – a palaeontologist working on this species and the ship-breaking yards of Bangladesh.
8. The Stone Age by Jen Hadfield
Jen Hadfield lives in Shetland and her latest poetry collection is studded with rockpools, limpets and nudibranchs. It is also an exploration of neurodiversity and a fascinating glimpse into another island community.
9. The Draw of the Sea by Wyl Menmuir
In Spring Tides I tried to capture the magical marine life of the Isle of Man and also the connections we have with the sea and our maritime heritage. Wyl does a wonderful job of bringing those linkages to life in this montage of Cornwall’s seas and sea lovers.
10. A History of British Starfishes by Edward Forbes
This 1841 book might seem a dull choice but it really isn’t. Manxman Edward Forbes was a leading marine scientist and intersperses scientific descriptions with quirky illustrations of fairies dancing with brittlestars and other bizarre marine scenes. Delightful!