Eugenie Clark, ocean advocate and established scientist, was best known as “The Shark Lady.”
Clark passed away on February 25th after a vibrant career studying sharks and other ocean creatures. Over forty years of research took her across the world and into the seven seas.
Before detailing her numerous accomplishments, I’ll introduce Clark by one of her many wise remarks. When asked what Clark would do if she saw a shark in the water, she said,
“You don’t have to do anything. The chances of that shark attacking you in any way is so remote. The sea should be enjoyed, the animals in it. When you see a shark underwater, you should say how lucky I am to see this beautiful animal in his environment.”
Eugenie Clark recognized the magnificence of our seas and stopped at nothing to protect them.
In 1955, Clark established Mote Marine Laboratory to further advancements in ocean research and share the ocean’s treasures with the world. In Sarasota, Florida, the Marine Lab hosts some of the world’s greatest scientists and ocean advocates. Passionate about her work, Clark lectured at over sixty colleges and universities of the United States. The National Science Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Geographic Society, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have all supported Clark’s work and recognized her as a revolutionary scientist.
I tell you about Clark’s achievements not only to celebrate the life of a kindred spirit, but also to inspire girls worldwide to never forget that the sky is the limit. A woman in a male-dominated field, Clark persisted against the odds, leading her to a exciting career and gaining her worldwide honor. I pass on Clark’s story today to encourage girls in science as Clark encouraged me. Whether it be fifteen foot sharks or four centimeter ants, never stop exploring and asking questions about the world around you.
Read more about the wonderful Eugenie Clark here: http://www.sharksider.com/eugenie-clark/
From personal experience, I can attest to shark diving being a truly incredible experience. And the research that I conducted on the Shark Reef Marine Reserve of Fiji, no matter how elementary in complexity, was equally as extraordinary. But why do we have Shark Biologists, or Marine Science researchers of any specialty? Sure, it’s great fun to slip underwater and observe foreign creatures. But why do we bother spending money and resources trying to learn more about them?
The truth is, we study sharks to protect them, their respective ecosystems, and ourselves. As E.O. Wilson said in his Letters to a Young Scientist,
“I wish to stress how little we know of life on the planet. Ponder these questions for a while: How do pond, mountaintop desert and rain forest ecosystems really work? What holds them together? Under what pressures to they sometimes disintegrate, and how and why. In fact, many are crumbling. Humanity’s long-term survival depends on acquiring answers to these and many other related questions about our home planet. Time is growing short.”
In the case of Sharks in particular, Wilson is spot on in his claim that we know little about them. Much of their mating habits, lifespans, feeding habits and social behaviors is unknown. In our quest to effectively conserve these essential members of ocean ecosystems, we need to understand how to protect them.
Many current researchers look to understand where sharks’ critical habitats are (where they are most vulnerable). In protecting these habitats, we can work to ensure the continuance of certain species. For example, seagrass beds serve as important ‘nursery’-like areas for lemon sharks and other sharks. To protect these seagrass beds, as researchers at the Bimini Shark Lab are, means ensuring the successful development of vulnerable lemon shark pups.
With many blank spaces in our shark textbooks, there is much to be learned and research to be done. For all budding scientists, never forget (in the words of E. O. Wilson): “You are needed.”