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Shark Awareness Day: Build a career in shark conservation

Shark conservation

Ever wondered why sharks are feared by so many? Well, researchers from the University of South Australia think shark movies (like Jaws) have played a huge part.

Sadly, this has led to negative impact on shark conservation efforts across the globe.

Researchers from the University of South Australia, Dr Briana Le Busque and Associate Professor Carla Litchfield, have evaluated how sharks are portrayed in movies. They found that 96% of shark flicks show sharks as threats to humans.

Dr Le Busque says sensationalised depictions of sharks in popular media can unfairly influence how people perceive sharks and harm conservation efforts.

“Most of what people know about sharks is obtained through movies, or the news, where sharks are typically presented as something to be deeply feared,” Dr Le Busque says.

“Since Jaws, we’ve seen a proliferation of monster shark movies – Open Water, The Meg, 47 Metres Down, Sharknado – all of which overtly present sharks as terrifying creatures with an insatiable appetite for human flesh. This is just not true.

“Sharks are at much greater risk of harm from humans, than humans from sharks, with global shark populations in rapid decline, and many species at risk of extinction.

“Exacerbating a fear of sharks that’s disproportionate to their actual threat, damages conservation efforts, often influencing people to support potentially harmful mitigation strategies.

“There’s no doubt that the legacy of Jaws persists, but we must be mindful of how films portray sharks to capture movie-goers. This is an important step to debunk shark myths and build shark conservation.”

Working with sharks

If you’re keen on marine biology, why not consider specialising in sharks? There are stacks of exciting STEM jobs in this field, including ones that help shark conservation efforts, as well as smashing stereotypes about these creatures.

You could be:

  • A coastal engineer
  • An environmental journalist
  • A marine biologist
  • A marine conservationist
  • A science communicator
  • A scientific diver
  • A shark aquarist
  • A shark biologist
  • A shark conservationist
  • A shark research technician
  • An underwater shark photographer or videographer
  • A veterinarian

But don’t just take it from us. Here are two amazing women in STEM working with sharks on the daily and loving it!

Blake Chapman – marine biologist and shark advocate

Blake Chapman
Blake Chapman, marine biologist and shark advocate. Image: The University of Queensland

After studying science, majoring in biology, at James Madison University in her home country of the United States, Blake Chapman headed to Australian shores to pursue her real passion – sharks! She completed a PhD at The University of Queensland investigating how sharks sense the world around them.

Blake spent more than a decade as a researcher at The University of Queensland, but her career has also seen her put her science background to a different use – as a writer and communicator, with a focus on challenging the myths and misconceptions that surround sharks.

“Sharks are incredible animals for so many reasons, but they get a really bad rap. Although decades have passed since my first inspiration to debunk some of the misunderstandings around sharks, I’ve not lost my passion for this topic,” she says.

“Being able to provide real, interesting information about sharks to a broad audience is extremely fun and rewarding for me. I get to write about sharks from an angle that isn’t often represented in popular media: one that is not sensationalised or fuelled by emotion.”

Find out more about becoming a science communicator, plus Blake’s career journey with sharks, here.

Julianna Kadar – shark biologist

Julianna Kadar
Julianna Kadar, shark biologist.

For the past five years, Julianna has been focused on the behaviour and patterns of the iconic Port Jackson shark, by tagging them with what she explains as ‘the marine equivalent of a Fitbit.’ She’s tagging them in order to learn their impact on the environment and get an idea of what they do to maintain a healthy population. The ultimate goal of her research is to learn how best to manage the species and keep their environment protected and healthy.

Julianna also wants everyone to know that sharks are not so scary once you come to understand them! She urges everyone to look a little closer and really get to know them before writing them off.

We’ve got the full lowdown on Julianna’s STEM + shark study and career path here.

Want more on science careers? We’ve profiled hundreds of scientists working in everything from environmental science to quantum chemistry. Head on over to the Careers with Science hub to get your study and career path inspo!

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