BIMS feature-A Journey to Greatness; from medical doctor to a marine scientist

by Frank Mirobo, BIMS member and WIO-ECSN Secretary-General (Tanzania) and a Co-founder of SOAHub in Zanzibar. 

Frank Mirobo

My name is Frank Mirobo, a young passionate, dedicated, enthusiastic , Black marine researcher from Tanzania. I currently serve as a Secretary General of the Western Indian Ocean Early Career Scientist Network (WIO-ECSN) a youth network affiliated under Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) In the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region. Moreover, I am a Co-coordinator of the UN Ocean Decade Booklet in Africa, co-founder of Sustainable Ocean Alliance hub in Zanzibar-Tanzania, Climate change advocate, science communicator, author, editor and a marine sciences blogger.

How did all this come to exist, believe me as Kurt Vonnegut says, “Science is magic that works.” My journey to become a young Black marine scientist came about when I wasn’t selected for medical schools after completing high school back in 2014.

At that time I didn’t have so many options of which other career I could pursue and get engaged in. I grew up in a family of medical professionals (my father being one of the great surgeons and my mom a nurse) where I was so inspired to become a medical doctor, a work of my late father Dr. Mirobo.

Nature selected me otherwise to pursue a career of biological sciences where at that point in time I knew nothing about the course or what I would become after I completed the program. “Would I be a school teacher or a biologist? What does a biologist do and how would I fit in in the world employment opportunities?

Those where some of the questions that were rotating in my mind as I saw the degree program I was placed in after being dropped off from medical schools due to over application. It was confusing as to what I would become after completing the degree program (Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Dodoma-Tanzania).

Frank at different field sites collecting marine data and awareness to coastal communities.

Coming from the third world countries, most of us at that time didn’t have exposure as to what the role of biologists was in nature and what we only knew was that they are people who studied biology. ” Where do they work or what is their application in real life and what do they contribute in nature?” was a struggle to answer at that time. I reached out to some of my friends who were selected together in that degree program, but all of them were not familiar with the program either. “What mess am getting myself into?” was another question in my mind!

My mother knew my passion way back and she always wanted me to be the next version of my daddy in the family. She suggested taking me to one of the private universities to pursue my dream of becoming a medical doctor. But I turned down the offer as she was supposed to pay the university fees from her own pocket for 5 years while in the Government University where I was selected, I got 83% of the loan to pursue BSc Biology. I didn’t have other options. Either I studied the selected course or I stayed home to wait and then apply the next year again for medical schools.

That was a turning point in my life as I personally didn’t want to put my mom in the same situation of covering my university expenses as she has been doing so for my secondary and high school already. I took the course and it’s where everything changed to the greatness that works for me today.

What made me study Marine science?

In my freshmen year at the University of Dodoma, I was trying to figure out what the course was really all about and what the future would be. As I was introduced to different courses of biology, my interest grew in the area of aquatic sciences . That’s where I met Dr. Mariam ndwata and Dr. Yussuf Salum Who introduced me to the course and started to plant the seeds that today have grown up.

Frank & Dr. Salum attending the 10th WIOMSA symposium

After class, both spent their free time to inspire us on how much potential the program had and what we might become if we focused in the area of aquatic sciences. My curiosity made me always find time to talk with them and learn something about the path they had taken to become who they are today. It was inspiring and started giving me hope as to the great future ahead.  

In my sophomore year, I met Dr. Asiya Nchimbi, who just completed her masters at that time , and she had a lot to offer in terms of fresh experiences in the field and opportunities. Later, I met Dr. Salum Hamed in one of the courses (Aquaculture), who had just completed his PhD on marine sciences, and who took me through the journey of becoming a passionate, and dedicated marine researcher. He became my mentor and supervisor in my third year’s special project together with Dr. Narriman Jiddawi (hidden icon in WIO region) from the Institute of Marine Sciences Zanzibar, under the University of Dar es salaam. Both had a lot to offer as to who I am today.

It’s because of their great supervision I was selected as a first undergraduate student from my university to present my third year project at the WIOMSA international symposium in 2017. No undergraduate student at that time had done it in Tanzanian Universities. The history was made!

The exposure I received at that early stage in my career growth, made me always want more and inspired me to be a driver of change in my own community. It’s through these different people that I aspired to become a marine scientist and I don’t regret any points along this journey.

What is so special about Marine sciences?

Marine science it’s a new frontier to Black communities across Africa. We were living in the era where most of the senior marine researchers were not people of color and all the great names in the field belonged to no Black people at that time. Marine sciences is pretty a unique career, interesting, and there are a lot of aspects to still be explored. The field enables us to explore the unseen and the unusual. Swimming with sharks and whales was not something usual for human kind at one time.

Frank(far right) & other officials at the official UN booklet launch.

As a young Black marine researcher this career has made me conquer my fear and connect with different people across the globe. Marine sciences has broken barriers and open doors that I have never thought at my younger age that I would be able to get involved with.

Through the youth network (WIO-ECSN) I have been able to grow my career and connect with people of different specializations in the field. As a person passionate on fisheries, aquaculture, climate change, marine policy, marine debris and conservation of endangered marine megafaunas, I have experienced how our ocean is destroyed and how crucial it is to protect at least 30% of the ocean by 2030.

At my young age am working as a secretary general of one of the great youth network in the 10 WIO countries in the region. It’s because of this I was selected by the IOC UNESCO Africa and my network to Co-Coordinate the United Nations Ocean Decade Booklet for the African continent ( ) which to me it’s a huge gain as only senior researchers tend to do this kind of work due to the fact that they have more experience in the field. Together with my colleagues in our network, we have been working and continue working tirelessly to implement the UN Ocean Decade agenda 2030 “The science we need for the ocean we want in Africa”.

As a science communicator and climate change activist, I use my social media platforms to inspire, connect and provide knowledge to different groups of people in the region. It’s through this that I established an outreach program to secondary students in my community in Zanzibar in order to tackle the challenges of ocean literacy to Black communities in the coastal areas.

This provides them with essential knowledge that will enable them to directly engage in the conservations, initiatives and protect the future of our ocean in our country.  It’s very fun and I enjoy my time with the younger generation as they are eager to learn and they are the agents of change.

Going out in the field is the most interesting part of the program. You can see how these young Black kids have energy to learn and provide solutions to better management of the Marine ecosystem. This gives me courage as a young Black researcher to do more as my community expects a lot from me and hence this is right the time.

Outreach program; A field practical for secondary students on the important Marine ecosystems in Zanzibar Tanzania.

Being a focal point in the region has made me learn that every person has something to contribute no matter how small it can be. The togetherness and readiness to working with different groups of people has made me connect with various people and make an impact in my region.

Throughout my career growth, I have been improving my knowledge on different aspects of Marine sciences through training, workshops, webinars, presentation and actual field visits.

Frank with global colleagues spreading awareness on protecting Deep Sea in Lisbon 2022

I have been also involved in a Marine policy brief in which I have been on the frontline to raise awareness on the “Deep Sea Mining in Africa. Together with my colleagues, we produced a policy brief that addresses the need of investing in first understanding the process and its impact to the coastal communities before the startup of the process of deep sea mining in African waters. Africa as a continent has been seen to be silent when it comes to the agenda of deep sea mining despite the fact that it’s a world hot spot in terms of exploitation and marine resources.

If I am asked to explain how wonderfully the Marine sciences has changed my life, I will spend a million days trying to explain how amazing the field is. I am still a junior researcher and there a so many stories to be told, as well as opportunities that will allow the people of color to explore and protect the ocean. I always believe that everything that is meant to happen in your life will happen according to GOD’s plans.

Today, I encourage all the Black enthusiastic youth out there to keep going and pushing for what they believe is meant for them. Nature selected me to be in the Marine sciences. I have given it all knowing that this is what is meant for my greatness and therefore I have to offer the best in me.

I don’t regret the choices I made but rather I cherish them every single day of my life as they have brought the greatness out in me. I always remain thankful to those who inspired me to get into the field as they saw a potential in me and there is so much potential in the field of Aquatic sciences.

Always remember “Black is Magic and it’s meant to be cherished”, being a person of color doesn’t mean you are not meant for greatness in this field. You are great already. Don’t hold your fears in front of you but rather work to remove them.

Frank Mirobo

As the sun sets, let us keep in mind we have potential. We are powerful and magnificent, and the Ocean sciences belong to every one of us. Let us keep up the good work. If I went through this journey of hardship and still find my greatness and deliver the work, hence you other Black young geniuses out there can do better and even better than me no matter what career struggles and choices you have made. “Just conquer what you fear the most” and let the journey to greatness begin.

Frank pictured here with BIMS founder and C.E.O. , Tiara Moore

connect with Frank via

Connect with me through

Facebook: @Frank Mirobo

LinkedIn: @frank mirobo

Mr. Frank Mirobo

connect with BIMS via

via Twitter BlackinMarSci and

Author: suzannecrmiller

Author of Queen, Wage, The Selections on Amazon, Fly on site and soon to be Souvenir through @Inkdedingray publishing

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