Females in the Natural Sciences (F.I.N.S.)

Giving girls hands-on experiences in the sciences.

Females in the Natural Sciences (F.I.N.S.)

The University of Miami Shark Research and Conservation Program (SRC), and Field School Scientific Training announces F.I.N.S. (Females in the Natural Sciences), a project funded through a Fulbright Canada Eco-Leadership grant to promote ocean conservation and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education in girls.

F.I.N.S. will provide girls with hands-on experience in marine science as shark research volunteers with SRC.

This project aims to encourage girls to pursue STEM education by providing relevant mentorship alongside tangible and unforgettable scientific experiences. During their day of shark tagging, girls will be extensively involved in the research, helping the SRC crew set and pull in drumlines, and assisting in shark workups, which involves inserting a tag, taking length measurements, and snipping off a tissue sample. These data will inform future conservation and management practices, adding to the research of UM Rosenstiel School shark biologist Neil Hammerschlag, director of the SRC.

“We recognize that today’s students are the scientists and conservationists of tomorrow, and we need our nation’s girls to be part of the next generation’s problem solvers.” said Julia Whidden, a recently finished Fulbright Scholar with SRC and co-founder of F.I.N.S. “We have developed F.I.N.S. to address the gender disparity in STEM fields, the lack of opportunity for young people to engage with nature, and to stimulate public interest in our oceans.”

F.I.N.S. is an extension of Dr. Hammerschlag’s existing community outreach program that engages over 1000 students from a variety of public and private high schools in Miami-Dade County each year. “Research has shown that participating in hands-on, real-world learning experiences increases student engagement in science and the likelihood that they will continue their studies in STEM fields, which is a national educational priority,” said Dr. Hammerschlag. A number of studies suggest that the United States must produce one million more STEM graduates than are projected to graduate over the next decade in order to maintain its historic pre-eminence in the STEM fields. The need for impactful STEM-related programs is particularly acute in Miami-Dade County, where 59 percent of students in the public school system (the nation’s fourth largest) are eligible for free/reduced lunch.

    Trip Details:

  • Participation in official UMiami shark research, alongside a mainly female crew

  • One-day research trip, from ~8:30 am to ~4:30 pm

  • Assist in the collection of samples, including: taking a fin clip, tagging the shark, taking shark length measurements, and performing reflex tests. Want to see what you’ll be doing? Check out our F.I.N.S. photos and video library, and like our Facebook albums and Instagram!

  • At this time, we’re only able to accommodate groups of up to 15 girls. If you’re interested in joining an expedition but don’t have a group, see our Citizen Science page.

  • AGE LIMIT: All participants must be at least 10 years of age

According to the National Science Foundation, women are an underrepresented group in science – representing only 25 % of all STEM careers and only 11 % of engineering jobs – despite composing 50 % of the work force.

A 2011 study showed that girls presented with primarily male examples of scientists and engineers were less likely to think they could be successful in STEM careers, which is why the F.I.N.S. Program will be run mainly by female graduate student volunteers. This program is intended to improve the retention of women in STEM fields by providing girls with exciting and informal science experiences free of grades or evaluation, where they can seek inspiration and mentorship from relatable women at many stages of their scientific careers.

The community partners involved in this project include the University of Miami’s Shark Research and Conservation Program, and Field School Scientific Training. SRC and Field School will host the days of shark tagging, and fishing will take place aboard Field School’s 55’ Coast Guard Certified Research Vessel Garvin. We believe these activities will provide girls with a strong introduction to careers in many STEM fields, promoting environmental stewardship and challenging preconceptions about sharks and the resilience of our oceans.

Some of the major objectives of this work include:

  1. To address the gender disparity in STEM fields and encourage girls to stay engaged in the sciences;
  2. To provide an exciting opportunity for children and youth to engage with nature;
  3. To stimulate public interest in our oceans, particularly in the next generation.

Interested in joining us? Book a trip!


SRC In Focus

Today’s students are the scientists and conservationists of tomorrow, and we need our nation’s girls to be part of the next generation’s problem solvers.

Care about women in science? Donate to our F.I.N.S. Program to subsidize trips!

Interested in booking a F.I.N.S. trip? Fill out our form for more information!

Females in the Natural Sciences (F.I.N.S.) from Shark Conservation Research @ UM on Vimeo.