He spent his childhood summers by the sea. Now he inspires young people to take responsibility for the marine environment. Ragnar Eide is one of the motivating forces behind the advanced placement programme in marine biology at the upper-secondary school Gullmarsgymnasiet in Lysekil.
Blackboard and benches in long rows? No, at Gullmarsgymnasiet’s marine programme, the classroom features aquariums, sea urchins and trickling sea water instead. It’s a bit chilly and damp when we step into the low building on the quay next to the main building of Gullmarsgymnasiet in Lysekil. In the middle of the grey concrete floor is a giant tub with seawater, where some small flatfish have concealed themselves in the sand at the bottom. A small crab quickly scurries under a tuft of seaweed when it notices the unwelcome guests peering down into the tub. In the room there’s also a long chute with trickling, fresh sea water that is full of small marine animals, and the walls of the room are covered with shelves crowded with small aquariums – the students’ own, it turns out.
The aquarium room is the hub of Gullmarsgymnasiet’s marine programmes. Here students in the relatively new marine Natural Resource Programme rub shoulders with students of the natural sciences programme with marine biology advanced placement. This advanced placement programme has been around since 1995, and Ragnar Eide, a marine biology teacher, has been involved since the start.
“It’s an interesting and varied job, and I learn new things all the time”, he says.
In addition to teaching marine biology, the job also includes many excursions in which teachers and students go into the field to collect marine animals and study their structure and behaviour.
“We have a close collaboration with the marine laboratory in Kristineberg, and students lend a hand with several of the lab’s projects.”
His work as a teacher gives him a unique opportunity to keep up to date within the marine biology field. Science is rapidly advancing, and Ragnar is constantly updating courses so that students have access to the latest findings.
“Being a teacher is actually more educational than being a researcher. As a researcher, you have to know everything in your own subject, but I have a chance to acquire much broader knowledge. From an educational standpoint, I think it’s really great. My interest in science is what motivates me, and I like to keep abreast of developments and pass them on to the students.”
The research track is what Ragnar had in mind from the beginning. He studied marine biology at the University of Gothenburg in the 1980s and had begun a dissertation on the evolution of polychaete worms when a completely different species came to his attention – the fire-bellied toad. The species was endangered, and Ragnar got the chance to participate in a collaborative project between Universeum and Nordens Ark to save the species. For a few years in the early 1990s, he raised fire-bellied toads in order to stock them in their natural habitat in ponds in Skåne.
“Saving frogs seemed more important than the dissertation”, he says, laughing. “And then came the chance to be involved in starting up this upper-secondary school advanced placement programme in marine biology – a unique opportunity to get young people to take an interest in the marine environment.”
Yes, protecting wildlife and nature has always been second nature to him.
“I’ve always liked having animals. I lugged home common vipers by the tail as a kid, to my mother’s despair. I would keep them for a while, study how they behaved and then release them. I don’t like animals in cages. No, it had to benefit of animals.”
A love of nature and the sea was born during childhood summers on the island of Flatön, not far from Lysekil. Ragnar snorkelled, sailed and paddled sea kayaks. Happiness was to cram the kayak with water and powdered soup and paddle off on his own to explore the islands along the coast for a few days.
“I slept in the open in rock crevices. If it started raining, I just pulled a tarp over me. My parents had to put up with the fact that I went off like that. At that time there was no mobile phone, of course, but I think they reasoned that as long as they didn’t hear anything, everything was okay.”
When Ragnar began working at Gullmarsgymnasiet, he could not find his way around Lysekil at all. But he knew every islet in the sea outside the city. Something that comes in handy during school excursions.
For several years his main assignment has been teaching in the Marine Natural Resource Programme. The focus is new resource-friendly and environment-friendly ways of aquaculture.
“What people have done to the environment has had catastrophic consequences. But we must not give up. We must focus on what we can save. Algae cultivation for biofuel production, for example, is an active way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
“I want to get students to see the possibilities. How it is important that we put the environment first and save what can be saved.”
Occupation: Teacher of marine biology at Gullmarsgymnasiet in Lysekil.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in marine biology at the University of Gothenburg.
Place of residence: Lysekil and Gothenburg.
Leisure time: Listen to classical music and be out in nature. Likes to hike, paddle, sail and dive.