How I Became a Shark Saver!

Posted on June 18, 2012
Written by: Jennah Caster

jennah1.jpgRegardless of how old you are, where you live, or what your profession, it is NEVER too late to become a shark lover and a Shark Saver!

My history as a Shark Saver is relatively new, but filled with enthusiasm and zeal. Within a matter of months, my best friends, family, and even strangers have come to know me as a ‘shark girl’ and a ‘shark saver.’ How did this all develop so quickly?

I was privileged to meet Mary O’Malley, one of Shark Savers’ Board members, in my hometown of Delray Beach, Florida. As fate would have it, my father attends the same gym as Mary. After learning of her work, travels, and photography, my father immediately phoned to tell me: “Jennah, I met the most amazing person this morning. She lives your dream life!” I immediately contacted Mary, knowing I would soon be local to South Florida, starting graduate school at the University fo Miami, and looking to make a difference in the environment in which I grew up. Once in Delray, I had dinner with Mary and a few of the Shark Savers team. After this introduction to an incredible group of passionate and dedicated individuals, I knew that I wanted to be more involved. I attended a public Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) meeting with the Florida Shark Savers team and testified, on the record, for the protection of hammerhead and tiger sharks in Florida state waters. It was empowering but it was just the beginning.

Jennah2.jpgWithin a matter of weeks of commencing graduate school at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS), I knew that sharks would be a big part of my life. I had the privilege of taking a Marine Conservation Biology course with Dr. Neil Hammerschlag. Although the course did not focus on top predators, apex species undoubtedly came up as an integral part of the curriculum themes like ecosystem-based management, shifting baselines, and trophic cascades. I participated in a shark-tagging trip with the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program, which just about sealed the deal. With friendly guidance and great mentoring, I decided that I needed to work with, and for, sharks.

When seeking an internship for my Masters of Professional Science (MPS) degree, I immediately reached out to Mary, who then put me in touch with the incredible Samantha Whitcraft. This, again, seemed to be fate. What a dream come true to have an extraordinary graduate committee, including Dr. Hammerschlag, Dr. Letson, and Ms. Estevanez, and work with an accomplished and passionate individual, like Samantha (for an organization like Shark Savers!)

Jennah3.jpgI am thrilled to be part of this team, working hard to provide citizens with the opportunity to document their sharks sightings, learn to value their local shark populations, and to build support and gain advocates for top predators and marine conservation. Already with Shark Savers, I have meet incredible partners in advocacy, participated in outreach events, assisted with hands-on shark fieldwork, researched and blogged about important shark conservation topics, distributed films... basically, I get to do it all! (Which does occasionally include bringing my fabulous boss a much needed Starbucks. After all, I am an ‘Intern.’)

Over these next several months interning for Shark Savers, I have plans to film, research, travel, teach, blog, dive, and more! Yes, I am well on the way to living my dream!