On a recent trip to Bimini, in the Bahamas, we had the chance to meet Jillian and Duncan. They are talented underwater photographers and videographers with a particular passion for sharks. We met on a dive boat, heading out to dive with Great Hammerhead sharks, and chatted about their charity, Sharks4Kids, about shark conservation and our joint passion for shark imagery. We asked Jillian to tell us a little more about what she does.
Tell us about Sharks4Kids. What does it do now and what you hope to be able to achieve in the future?
Sharks4Kids is a US based non-profit with the goal of creating the next generation of shark advocates through education, outreach and adventure. Founded by a team of marine biologists, videographers and photographers, Sharks4Kids is able to combine science and conservation media to create a unique and dynamic range of shark education materials. The website offers curriculum, videos, activities and more. Skype classroom lessons and Google hangouts also offer teachers and students the opportunity to have an interactive experience with shark scientists and conservationists. Using Skype, the team has connected with over 40,000 students in 37 countries and 47 US States. Our shark education tours have been hosted in Canada, The Bahamas, The United States and the Dutch Caribbean. In person visits have taken our team to 7 different countries and our ambassador program is building. Shark snorkels, dives and tagging trips are also offered as a way of immersing students into the world of sharks and shark science. We will be publishing our first children’s book in April and will have our first app available later in the year.
Sharks4Kids hopes to expand and increase field opportunities, develop more interactive video content and continue to build the next generation of shark advocates around the world.
Tell us a little about yourself, why you love sharks, and how you got involved in shark conservation.
I grew up crawling through tide pools on the Maine coast and swimming in the cold ocean water until my lips turned blue, much to my parents’ dismay. By the time I was 8 years old, I had seen dolphins, manatees and sharks in the wild and my attachment to the ocean became even deeper. I knew from that young age, the ocean was my place and would be a large part of my life. This passion and fascination has only intensified as I’ve gotten older and much of my adult life has revolved around the ocean.
After graduating with a degree in animal behavior I began traveling the world to study sharks, which took me to Florida, The Bahamas, California and Australia. During my travels my love of sharks and want to help conserve them only grew. I realized how much fear and even hatred was associated with these animals and my own experiences were polar opposites of that. I knew I wanted to share their story and help people understand their reality versus the stereotypes and so began a journey to spread shark education and awareness.
I created Sharks4Kids, Inc. in 2012 because I believe kids offer hope for our oceans and for our planet. Their voice can be heard. When given tools, the opportunities for students around the world to make a difference, is endless. They have beautiful visions, stories to tell and creative, unbiased minds to drive action. No matter how young or old, never underestimate your ability to influence, inspire and empower.
I have traveled the world filming and photographing marine life, especially sharks. Perceptions and attitudes are changing, directly propelled by someone’s glimpse into the life of these misunderstood predators. Education and awareness develop understanding and compassion, all of which can be catalyzed by one simple image.
Why are great underwater images and video important to the great work that you do at Sharks4Kids?
It is probably cliché to say, but a picture is really worth a 1000 words and can tell a very powerful story. Showing people the beauty and grace of these animals can replace fear with fascination. Images can also catalyze a curiosity for someone to have their own experience. They allow us to show diversity, adaptations, behaviors, habitats and threats facing sharks. They can also help us learn a tremendous amount about a particular shark or a species. We can also show people in the water with sharks, which is also a powerful tool. Sharks are wild animals and they must be respected, but they are not the man-eating monsters they are so frequently portrayed as. Photos and videos are an invaluable tool for teaching kids around the world about sharks, why they are important and how they can help save these incredible animals.
For more information, visit www.sharks4kids.com.