I was given the privilege to work alongside amazing people in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. To put into words my experience is difficult, but I will give it a shot. The day I received the email that I got accepted for this fellowship, I literally screamed out loud. That was by far the happiest day of my life because I was given an experience of a lifetime thanks to MISS. This opportunity helped broaden my knowledge about specifically White Sharks and helped me get over my subtle fears of them.
The day I arrived to the shark center, I was nervous of meeting everyone. I had just flown in the night before and the next day ubered to the center. I arrived, and the first person I met was the lovely Ms. Heather, who is in charge of the shark center in Cape Cod. She was very kind and full of energy which made me feel reassured. From the mentors to my intern mates, I had a blast meeting them and learning from them for as long as possible. I was empowered by being surrounded by intelligent women of science, even as a minority.
My first two weeks there, I was training and learning with my intern mates. We learned about many different things, from what the shark center does to the research team to the education team to even the sharks in general. My brain was enhanced with so much knowledge from each department of the AWSC. My favorite had to be the research team which was presented by Victoria and Kelly, who were previous AWSC interns. They made it interesting and fun with games in order to learn the material with ease.
After training, it was go time! I had the opportunity and privilege to work with the research team for the next two weeks. Victoria was my carpool buddy and my mentor during the experience. She assigned me to work such as white shake identification and creating infographics for the public to better understand what the research team does and the tools they use. From 9 AM to 5 PM, I would work almost non-stop because I wanted to get as much exposure as I could. I was stubborn to stop, and I just wanted to keep going. Victoria was kind to understand my feelings because she kept asking me if I wanted to leave earlier like the other interns, and I did not want to. So for the next two weeks, I worked on infographics and, if not that, then shark identification. Another exciting opportunity for me was being able to fly the drone both on land and on the boat. When I wasn’t in the office, I was with Kelly and Victoria out on Nauset Beach flying the drone. When we practiced enough on the land, we decided to take it out for a test on the boat. I, of course, made sure to pack my necessities because sea sickness was my enemy. We headed out to sea, and I was doing great with the wind in my face, but as soon as we stopped to fly out the drones, sea sickness took over, and I died (metaphorically speaking). I sadly had to come back inland, so my trip was cut short with the team, and I felt bad. I was glad that Victoria kept reassuring me that it was okay and not my fault, which helped calm me down. After that experience, I made sure to do everything I could to be prepared for the next time I went out to sea.
After participating with the research team, I dove into the education aspect of the AWSC, which was community outreach. I participated in my first outreach with Ms. Kristin and Ms. Hayley. It was at a children’s museum, and we basically educated families, especially the kids, about white sharks using props we had for hands-on experience. While multitasking with the education team,
I also went out to beaches with the Shark Smart team. Shark smart was in charge of educating the public at the beaches and answering any of their questions or misconceptions they have about white sharks. I also spent time in the shark center answering the public questions while then walked around the center, and I was even in the fossil pit making necklaces for the kids when they found a shark tooth.
My whole time there, I built amazing connections with intelligent females and created beautiful memories together. This experience changed my life on how I view the apex predator. When I was able to meet my first white shark, I shed tears because they were just majestic creatures labeled with a bad name. This was truly one for the books, and I couldn’t be more honored and proud of myself for applying to MISS and given the opportunity to be surrounded by females in the science field that I am pursuing.
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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