This next profile is of ASC president, Hannah! She has been a snowbird (traveling south to Florida from Maryland every winter) most of her life but decided to stay in Florida permanently after returning to the U.S. from South Africa where she earned her Master’s of Science degree from the University of Cape Town.
Have you always been interested in sharks?
My fascination with sharks was born from a little bit of fear when I was about 8 or 9 years old. I seem to be wired with a natural curiosity. Once I knew about sharks, I was fascinated and wanted to learn as much as I could about them.
Other than researching and saving sharks, what are your favorite hobbies?
I really love to travel to new places, photographing nature and wildlife. I love a good book and live for wine-fueled nights with my best friends and family.
Why do you care about sharks?
Sharks are underdogs and I think I empathize with that. They have been misrepresented in the media and movies. Managers and policymakers ignored them as economically unimportant pests. It is so important that we know how they fit into the big, complex, dynamic ocean ecosystems so we can manage and coexist in a sustainable way.
Why do you like being part of ASC?
Being a part of ASC allows me to work with the people I really value and admire. I get to pick and choose what projects we take on and we aren’t restricted the way some large organizations are. I love that we are accessible and work really hard to make sure our work gets communicated to the local communities and the public. I also really like the community we are building, full of support for those of us that are still finding our way through this science and conservation career path.
What is your favorite shark and why?
I hate to be that girl, but it is the great white shark. I spent 4 years working on the water with them and there are just no other species quite like them at all. Imagine being one of the very top apex predators in your ecosystem, not being afraid of much (except those pesky orcas). I admire their strength and presence and they really are the species that got me into this whole shark-y thing!
What shark would you like to see in the wild?
I am looking forward to seeing an oceanic whitetip but I enjoy diving with silky sharks during our summer shark surveys off the coast of Florida.
Were you ever scared of sharks?
Yes, I was pretty scared of sharks when I was 8 or 9 years old. I saw them on TV and even in our local newspaper in Delray Beach. The visuals and stories were really exaggerated so that even when I was in a pool and someone yelled out “shark!”, I would panic!
Have you faced any challenges in your journey in shark and ocean conservation?
You could say that. Whenever I mentioned an interest in studying sharks I was discouraged, told it was too competitive so not to bother. I was warned that is was an “old boys club” and there was very little available funding. Well, they weren’t wrong, it is very competitive, and funding is tough to come by and sometimes I wonder how much my gender impacts certain situations. But with drive and a belief that I could contribute and make a difference, I decided to ignore them and find my own way. There will always be challenges but if you are comfortable and excited about what you are doing, you have the strength to face them.
Regarding sharks and conservation, what would be your dream job?
I am living it, sort of…I get to conduct research projects, so I get the fun and challenge of fieldwork. I get to do outreach and teach people about the science and conservation of sharks. I mentor undergrad and early career scientists, sharing my experiences and network to help them on their path. If I could just get someone that is way better than me at the bookkeeping and fundraising, this would be beyond a dream!