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Women and Sharks in Ocean Science

Guest blog for Shark Stewards by Ashley Oman

BY ASHLEY OMAN

From a young age, I believed that girls could be both pretty and good at math. They could wear pink and play sports. They could be strong but still like glitter. In the past, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) have been consistently male dominated fields; but thankfully for me and all the other girls interested in experiments and curious to learn, there have been numerous trailblazing women that have paved a path for us in the STEM fields.

THE TRAILBLAZERS

As someone who always loved animals, my personal women in science heroes are those who had a passion to understand and protect animals and the environment. Jane Goodall completely transformed our understanding of chimpanzees through discoveries of their ability to make tools, communicate, and participate in social behaviors that are similar those of humans. Similarly, Dian Fossey massively contributed to our knowledge of gorillas as well as played a major rolling in saving the mountain gorillas from extinction. Finally, Sylvia Earle is a renown marine biologist that contributed pivotal marine algae research as well as incredible efforts in protecting the ocean from climate change, pollution, and other destruction. Each one of these women is a hero in their own right; however, they certainly faced challenges throughout their career. How can we continue to encourage girls to pursue careers in STEM?

THE FUTURE

  1. Exposure – It wasn’t until I was in my first engineering class in my freshman year of college that I understood what an engineer does and how cool of a job it can be. There is a lot of improvement to be made in our schools to better expose young children, especially girls, to science, experiments, engineering design, etc. so that girls can get hands on experience to further pique their interest and develop curiosities.
  2. Mentorship – While there are more women than ever before in STEM, we don’t always hear about them. Mentorship is a great way for young girls to get to see first-hand what a woman in science looks like. They can ask questions and develop their skill set with someone who has been in the same position as them.

HOW DO SHARKS FIT IN?

Sharks are vital to our ecosystem and because of unnecessary human consumption we are running sharks towards extinction. This makes shark research, conservation, and education efforts vital aspects of STEM. Kid focused shark education material like the book Sharks for Kids are great resources to help children learn and become passionate about sharks and marine life in general. Exposure and education for children can give them the knowledge and motivation they need to pursue careers in STEM. The oceans are our life so why not foster passion, curiosity, and awe in the children who will protect it one day. 

Ashley Omar

Ashley Oman has a Bachelors degree in Industrial and Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan, a Master of Arts in International Development Studies from George Washington University  and is a Shark Stewards science volunteer. Currently residing in Madrid, Spain she is a motivated, young professional working for ocean conservation. She discovered a passion for sharks after seeing her first, a blacktip reef shark, back when she was 8 years old. Since then she has gained a desire to protect them and all marine life.