My name is Naomi Scott, and I was selected as a fellow in the Eugenie Clark Field Research Skills and Leadership Program. Growing up I watched educational tv shows about the ocean and its organisms but living in Chicago, IL gave me little access to it. Overtime I realized that the ocean was something that I loved and wanted to explore but I struggled to find the ways to do that. When it came time for me to go to college I was excited to finally be able to study the ocean in an academic setting. My academic background is in Biology and Environmental Science, but I knew since I was a child that I wanted to do shark research.
All throughout college, I applied to shark research programs but could never seem to getmy foot in the door. Luckily a friend sent me the flyer for this fellowship, I applied, and thankfully I was accepted. Initially, I had no idea what to expect from the program, but I was ecstatic to finally get some hands-on experience doing shark research. I remember the first day like yesterday; we were on Tonya Wiley’s boat deploying gillnets and long lines for the Gulfspan project. I was very nervous because I’d never seen, let alone touched, a shark in person. We got our first shark, and it was an absolute frenzy of people yelling for a muscle punch, fin clip, and measurements! I remember the first time I had to call out the measurements for a shark and I had no idea what a precaudal lump was and it dawned on me that I had so much to learn and this is the experience that would teach me. It felt so surreal to finally be doing the things that I’d always said I wanted to do. It was the most invigorating feeling ever, and although there was so much I had no idea how to do, I knew I had Tonya and Jayne there to walk me through every step of the way. Before this fellowship,
I’d had other research experiences, but this is the first one where I felt like a true scientist in the field collecting valuable data. I can honestly say that every week after that was a newkind of thrill that I’ll honestly never forget. One of my favorite things about this fellowship was the fact that they incorporated so many other institutions to give us a very well-rounded experience. We got to work with New College of Florida, MISS, Chicago’s Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program and Havenworth Coastal Conservation. We participated in dolphin surveys, purse seines, drum lining, spotted eagle ray capture and release, data collection and entry, and even learned some basic statistics using R. Every week, we got to learn something new while building off the skills we’d learned in the previous week. This fellowship was the most fun and informative research experience I’ve ever had and truly one that I’ll never forget. I am very grateful to say that I was apart of the Eugenie Clark Field Research Skills and Leadership Program.
MISS provides a community and funded opportunities for gender minorities of color who wish to enter the field of shark sciences. We aim to show that there are many gender minorities of color succeeding in and interested in this field.
We fundraise and apply for grants to create paid opportunities to attempt to knock down the financial barrier into shark sciences. We encourage other organizations in our field to do the same.
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