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Sharks4Kids

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Sharks4Kids

Sharks4KidsOn 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.

Sharks4Kids

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.

Sharks4Kids

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.

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown are a husband and wife team of underwater photographers. Both have degrees in environmental biology from Manchester University, with Caroline also having a masters in animal behaviour. Nick is a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society in underwater wildlife photography and he also has a masters in teaching. They are passionate about marine conservation and hope that their images can inspire people to look after the world's seas and oceans. Their Manchester-based company, Frogfish Photography, offers a wide range of services and advice. They offer tuition with their own tailor made course - the Complete Underwater Photography Award. The modules of the course have been written to complement the corresponding chapters in Nick's own book: Underwater Photography Art and Techniques. They also offer equipment sales and underwater photography trips in the UK and abroad. For more information visit www.frogfishphotography.com.

Marine Life & Conservation

Review: My Octopus Teacher

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Regular contributors, CJ & Mike from Bimble in the Blue, review the Netflix documentary: My Octopus Teacher

My Octopus Teacher is the story of how filmmaker Craig Foster befriends a common octopus in the kelp forests off of the Cape Town coast.  Mike and I love to watch all things underwater and nature-based and so eagerly sat down to this documentary film, a new September arrival on Netflix.

Watch the trailer here:

After burning out at work Foster finds fascination and a deep connection with nature when spending time freediving at his favourite local spot.  In a sequence familiar to those who watched the “Green Seas” episode of Blue Planet 2, he comes across an octopus camouflaging itself with shells.  With his curiosity piqued, he begins to seek out the octopus on all of his dives, finding delight in its seemingly strange behaviours, learning what he can from the scientific literature and slowing working to gain the mollusc’s trust on his daily visits to her world.

My Octopus Teacher portrays a very anthropomorphised view of our subject and Foster’s relationship with her.  His conclusions tend to be more emotional than scientific and his eagerness to find similarities between himself and the octopus shows a great sentimentality.  However, you cannot help but be captivated by the incredible mutual curiosity and bond developing before you.  This relationship, and the stunning scenes of the kelp forest with its diverse inhabitants make for a deeply absorbing viewing experience.  There is some fantastic cephalopod behaviour, from the octopus adapting her hunting tactics for different prey, to strategies for outwitting predators and incredible colour and shape morphology.  Foster is also keen to point out how little we know about octopuses and that there is a great opportunity to learn something with every dive.

One of my favourite observations made by Foster at the end of the film is that by going into the water for liberation from daily life’s concerns and dramas, he realised how precious these wild places are.  As he starts to care about all the animals there, even the most minuscule, he comes to find that each one is both important and vulnerable.  Foster finds that his relationship with the octopus changes him and he feels a part of the kelp forest rather than just a visitor, an experience he then shares with his son.  To me Foster’s insight that we must connect with an environment in order to be truly motivated to protect it resonated very strongly.  For those fortunate enough to fall in love with our wilder environments and connect with them, seeing it mirrored in this documentary is quite moving.

Overall we very much enjoyed the film, especially the weird and wonderful behaviours caught on screen and the story as it unfolds.  Though our first reaction was one of pure jealousy (that Foster has such a stunning local dive spot and coastal property!) we soon moved past the envy and found My Octopus Teacher to be a very relaxing and enjoyable evening’s entertainment, which we highly recommend.

For more from CJ and Mike please visit their website here.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Jeff chats to… Paul Rose about the ‘For The Love of Sharks’ event this Friday (Watch Video)

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In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff talks to Paul Rose about the ‘For The Love of Sharks’, an event being held online by The Shark Trust at 7pm BST on this Friday – 25th September – where Paul is a guest speaker.

You can find out more about the event which also features Scubaverse’s Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown HERE.

Visit The Shark Trust website to book tickets to the event HERE!

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