Marine Biology Needs More Women Of Color – Black Girl Nerds

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National Geographic’s SharkFest program has it all: from gorgeous ocean views, to experts speaking out on issues, to footage of a variety of sharks, all of which kicked off on July 5 and sprawl over six weeks.

In early August, this writer had the fortuitous opportunity to have an online interview with an actual marine biologist in the field, Carlee Jackson. Jackson is not only a marine biologist, but also a sea turtle ecologist and shark expert who champions diversity in the world of science. Catch Jackson in Shark Attack Files, where she educates viewers on how to coexist with sharks.

Jackson talks about her experiences and the challenges she overcame as a minority during her education / training. She also co-founded the non-profit MISS (Minorities in Shark Sciences), which aims to encourage women of color to pursue careers in shark science. Carlee has a message for POC and women, she wants to educate you and recruit you to join her in the field of marine biology.

What prompted you to pursue a career in marine biology?

I knew very young that I wanted to be a marine biologist, and that stuck with me as I got older. The ocean was, and still is, so mysterious to me!

What do you think is the biggest myth surrounding sharks and sea turtles?

There are so many huge myths around sharks, but one of my favorites is that sharks are all the same. Sharks are one of the most diverse animal species in the ocean! There are over 500 different species of sharks, spread all over the Earth. Each species comes in different colors, patterns and shapes. The majority of shark species are no more than five feet long.

A fun myth about sea turtles is that they move slowly and are not strong. Sea turtles are indeed very fast in the water! And out of the water, they are loud – and not pleasant in my experience!

What do you hope will happen when more women of color join the male-dominated field?

Having a very monotonous group of people doing shark science means that there is probably a monotonous way of thinking and approaching science questions. The diversity of people gives rise to a diverse way of thinking, which leads to innovation. So, I believe wholeheartedly that we will be making many new discoveries in shark science at a faster rate when more women of color join this field!

What skills or qualities do you think are necessary to be an effective marine biologist?

For those who want to get into research: writing and statistics will be your allies. There is a great deal of literature and statistical analysis devoted to marine science. If coding is your thing, this is an especially useful skill to have in this area.

A particularly important skill at all levels is communication. Being able to communicate your science is extremely helpful when it comes to educating the public or your peers. Personally, I believe that all marine biologists should develop skills in science communication.

What advice can you offer our readers of Black Girl Nerds who wish to pursue a career in marine biology?

As a black woman navigating this field, I was often discouraged from pursuing this career and told myself that I really wasn’t going anywhere. I chose to ignore these people and pursue my passion.

Another tip is to try different things. There are so many different topics you can focus on, but it’s especially important to try things out first.

Can you tell us a funny anecdote about sharks?

One of my favorite facts is that the Greenland shark is the oldest living vertebrate known to date. They can live up to 500 years and live most of their lives completely blind. They grow extremely slowly (less than a centimeter per year), which lets us know how long they can live.

Shark Attack Files is currently available to view on available on Nat Geo WILD and Disney +.

Donnie Lopez

Donnie Lopez is a Latin / Hispanic gay social and political commentator, writer, entertainment reporter and teacher. He writes on topics that affect Hispanic / Latino culture. With his innovative insight, truthfulness and sense of humor, he entertains and educates the world.

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