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The Importance of Education in Shark Science by Baylie Fadool


Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, I was interested in marine science but was unsure of the opportunities available to me. I fell in love with the ocean at a young age but could not quite connect that I could make it a career. Teachers and educators encouraged me but did not know of all the opportunities available, being so far from the nearest ocean. My source of information for marine science internships and jobs were through documentaries and Google searches. They provided a wealth of information, and ultimately, became how I discovered the Bimini Biological Field Station Foundation (BBFSF). 


I was interested in the internship at the BBFSF initially because of wanting to gain more experience in field techniques and research. I certainly gained this, but the internship with the BBFSF is special in that you gain so much more than you could have originally intended. My unintended benefit was becoming the Outreach Coordinator. Through this, I not only developed a love for education but realized how crucial it is for shark science. 


The BBFSF welcomes around 100 university course students in any given year from universities all over the world. This gives students the opportunity to experience life at a field station, dive with numerous species of sharks, and hear about current research in shark science from the actual scientists doing it. I witnessed the impact of this firsthand, with students quick to say it was the best week of their life and even seeing many students go on to pursue careers in marine science. 

 


I was fortunate to be at BBFSF during the time when the Teacher/Educator Course was born in 2022. Teachers and educators come together through a scholarship so graciously provided by Ocean Mokum Foundation and Save Our Seas Foundation for a week of snorkeling with sharks and presentations from BBFSF scientists. This course gives teachers and educators (mostly not located close to the ocean) experiences to bring back to their communities and students. I quickly saw the impact of this course by speaking with the educators and seeing the programs that they designed afterwards. They said the course helped them overcome fears, inspire students, and create engaging and fun lesson plans. It changed many of their perspectives and gave them a life-changing experience, but what they may not have known is that it was also the week that changed mine.



As shark scientists, we discover and publish crucial findings every day that help advance the field. We attend conferences to share this information amongst each other and collaborate to answer new questions. What I have witnessed, though, is that the science we do does not mean anything if we do not share it with as many people as possible. 


I was connected and inspired by the BBFSF courses so greatly because it reminded me of something I would have loved to hear or know about when I was younger. Watching documentaries and doing Google searches were a way for me to find out about opportunities, but I can only imagine how much sooner I would have believed or found a career in this field if I would have had a teacher that participated in something like the BBFSF Teacher/Educator Course. From this, I set out on my newfound passion and realized that education was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.


Since I had no background in education, I began seeking opportunities to learn more about it. I learned a lot from educators about how to teach marine science at the Florida Marine Science Educators Association Conference in 2023, I learned from great science communicators on social media (yes, social media can be a great tool!), and I listened to the needs of the educators from the Teacher/Educator Course. From all these things, I began to develop my educational tools. I had fun designing workshops for the Teacher/Educator Course which I will be back to do this year, developed ideas for booths at conservation events, have brought all this experience to develop a summer camp in marine science in my home state of Tennessee, and am now the Director of Education for an amazing travel scholarship called the Live Like Jay G3 Scholarship. 



Through my own experiences in Tennessee, in college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), and speaking to educators, I realized how important it is to reach students in areas that are not located close to the ocean. I contacted UNL at the end of 2022 to begin discussing a course for them at BBFSF. After a year of planning, it finally happened at the beginning of 2024. Seeing the impact from this has been monumental, with one student coming back to Bimini to make a documentary and another student receiving an internship in marine education at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. I am thrilled to have connected with my advisor for graduate school through this and will be returning to UNL with a teaching assistantship. I will continue my love for marine science by continuing to participate in the UNL x BBFSF course, contributing more research in marine science, but most importantly, sharing it with a community that is not located close to the ocean (even though Nebraska used to be one big ocean!). I cannot wait to continue seeing the impact that this has.



There is this disconnect that can exist between scientists and educators. Through my experience at BBFSF, I realized how crucial it is to minimize this gap. By not reaching as big of an audience as possible, we are severely limiting the field and the power to create positive change. From all the work I have done and will continue to do, I hope to contribute to minimizing this gap and helping make science more accessible to everyone. Education and outreach are the absolute answer to this as I have witnessed its power firsthand. If you are a shark or marine scientist, I encourage you to seek out as many ways to share your work as possible. You just might not know how much of an impact that will have. 



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1 Comment


Absolutely love this! You are such a change-maker and will continue to inspire people wherever life takes you. Thank you for following your heart and making a difference in the world.

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