Saturday, Sept. 24th 2011
One of my favorite things in life is my involvement with the RJ Dunlap Program, if not my absolute favorite thing. I just moved back from California a few weeks ago and I was absolutely itching to get back on the water with my shark-loving team. Come Saturday’s conclusion all I can say is that the love was only reinstated.
The day’s trip was unusual in that we didn’t have students on the boat, but rather a group representing Inktel, donors to the program. However, two of the members brought some young’uns along.
Working for the past several months with children and young adults, I’ve realized how amazing an opportunity it is to be able to have a place in young people’s lives. Even if only for a day you can offer them something new, provide a different way to look at something, you hold the opportunity to initiate a change/flick a switch, and I think that’s a big part of what we do at RJD. It’s about science of course, but it’s also about sharing that science with more and more people and getting people excited about the ocean, so they’ll want to protect it and actually care about the science.
Isabella and Ben, the two 6th graders on board were already happy to be with us, so it didn’t take too much convincing to get them involved. Isabella was set on studying marine science one day and wants to be on the Discovery channel… though I told her we might be competing for that spot. She had her hands in the bait box stuffing the chum crates before we could stop her.
And then there was Ben. Ben is an example of my favorite case of child on the water. He was quiet at first, didn’t want to even think about touching the bait and had never been snorkeling. Not only did Ben get to go on his first snorkel, but he got to do it with several of the seven nurse sharks we tagged that day. I was so happy for him, so proud. The look on his face by the end of the day hardly resembled the child that stepped aboard that morning.
And this was just the kids. You should have seen the faces of the adults!! They couldn’t stop saying how cool it was, and they’re right. Sharks are really really cool, and it is just absolutely AWESOME to be able to share the experience of trying to protect them through our research.
Though we may not have gotten a wide variety of species, we got people excited about the two species we did see (we caught two Caribbean reef sharks in addition to the nurse sharks), which is the first step in raising awareness for these amazing creatures. So get pumped everyone, this is the beginning of a great new season.
Virginia, RJD Intern