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Changing Perception - by former ATMS Scholar Paloma Cartwright

My entire life growing up in the Bahamas, I was taught that if you saw a shark, especially a baby lemon shark, you got out of the water. They were always said to be feisty little things, so you had to be extra careful. Going to Aya’s spot for the first time was mind blowing. This mangrove ecosystem is a sanctuary for baby sharks to hide from larger ones at high tides.

Feeding juvenile lemon sharks there was one of the most surreal things I’ve ever experienced. We maneuvered our way through mangroves in waist deep water, emerging into an open area, surrounded by mangroves on all sides with baby lemon sharks milling about. We fed them fish by dropping pieces into the water away from our bodies as the sharks swam in and out of the circle formed by the volunteers. They were peacefully feeding, with one even brushing my leg, and there was no harm done to anyone. This day and my entire month at the Shark Lab helped change my perception of sharks permanently, transforming my misguided learnt fear into pure fascination.



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