CANDACE NARAVAEZ

From: Santa Monica, CA, USA

Background: Graduated with a BSc in Biology and a minor in English from The Pennsylvania State University in Spring 2020. Currently conducting research as a member of the Stauffer Lab at Pennsylvania State University.

Reasons for coming to lab: Growing up, I was always in the water or on the shore any chance I got. My family used to joke that my siblings and I were like fish, always wanting to be in the water swimming no matter how cold or rough the waters got. I decided in high school to pursue a career in shark research after taking a marine biology course. What started out as simple curiosity turned into a full-fledged passion for science and research, especially when it came to sharks. At the time, it seemed like there were so many unknowns surrounding sharks, their lives, and their importance. All I could think was, “Why don’t we know more about them?” I would often get lost for hours reading various research articles or looking up species of sharks that I could never have even imagined existed. However, one defining experience really solidified my decision to pursue a career in shark research and allowed me to change my perspective on the many assumptions I had about sharks. I remember the calm, the quiet, of being submerged underwater, waves rolling overhead. I could feel the current pushing against each fin covered stroke of my feet. But most of all, I remember the pale yellow eyes that locked with mine, curiously following my every movement. Before then, I had never even heard of a sandbar shark, let alone seen one so large in real life.
I realized two very important things in that moment: first, that being in the ocean, miles offshore and surrounded by sharks, felt like coming home, and second, that there was so much more hidden behind those pale eyes than I had ever imagined—and I wasn’t afraid. Having the opportunity to study in Hawaii as an undergraduate helped me learn more about myself and allowed me to get direct experience with sharks in their natural habitat. In particular, animal behavior is something I am very passionate about, but more than that, doing behavior research by studying sharks is everything I’ve been dreaming about—and everything I’ve been working towards. I plan on pursuing a Phd in Marine Science and continuing to grow and learn as much as possible.

CANDACE NARAVAEZ