Unsung Heroes: Women In Convervation – Dr. Eugenie Clark (May 10, 1922 – February 25, 2015)

St Petersburg Times/AP

As always, my source material is here.

A Japanese-American zoologist, Dr. Clark faced an even greater uphill battle than most female conservationists did, as the start of her career coincided with the rise of Japanese hatred during the Second World War; despite the discrimination she surely faced, Dr. Clark became the world’s preeminent shark conservationist and single handedly changed our view of these enigmatic creatures.

She worked as a research assistant at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, the New York Zoological Society and the American Museum of Natural History. In 1955, she founded the Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida and by 1968, her research caught the eye of Jacques Cousteau and she was part of the maiden voyage of the Calypso.

Dr. Clarke’s main contribution to ichthyology was a result of her work with lemon sharks, a medium sized shark that lives off the east coast of America (there have been lemon shark sightings in Hilton Head, South Carolina when stingray populations – one of their food sources – surge). She trained them to respond to food stimuli by choosing a target and found that even when she went months without working with them, they remembered which target to choose. This dispelled the myth that sharks are just stupid man-eating machines and was the work she was proudest of.

She worked quite a bit with children throughout her career, teaching them about the ocean and how to protect it, and when asked philosophy drove her passion for sharks she simply said “Love fish. Love sharks. Keep the water and their habitats as clean and protected as possible.”

Definitely words we should all live by.