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Meet Sharks4Kids Regional Ambassador Jilly Wenderlich

Jilly Wenderlich grew up crawling through tidepools and to this day is still an absolute water baby , working hard to protect sharks and the oceans. She’s an avid freediver and will not walk a beach without filling at least one bag with trash to take away. Jilly will be doing events and classroom visits in Hawaii, along with some of our social media work. We are thrilled to welcome her to our team. Thanks for sharing your shark story with us!

Jilly and a great white shark credit: Mike Coots

1. What is your favorite shark and why?

Growing up in Santa Cruz, California I absolutely fell in love with great whites at a very early age. I think when I was about 7 I told my parents I wanted to be a marine biologist and wanted to be the first person to see a great white give birth. Funny enough, it wasn’t until last year when I got to get in the water for the first time with one.

2. What is one shark you would like to see in the wild?

I would love to dive with a tiger shark. There is a lot of then where I live in Hawaii but I’ve never been fortunate enough to see one while diving yet!

3. What sparked your love of the ocean?

We had a place in Mexico when I was little. My mom used to take me to the beach every day to play in the tide pools and snorkel. She taught me to love and respect everything about it.

4. You do a lot of beach clean ups? Why do these make a difference? Why is this important to you?

Once again, my mom taught me about this We used to get involved with Save our Shores beach cleans. It was incredible to see how much rubbish is on the beach! Imagine what is floating in the ocean. My mom taught me that loving the ocean isn’t enough, you have to protect it. Every piece of plastic taken away is one less chance for a turtle to get caught in, a fish to eat, or a bird to make its nest with.

5. What message do you hope to teach kids about the oceans, plastic and sharks?

The ocean is more important to all of us than we can ever understand. I want kids to have the same kind of experiences I did when I was young. I want them to fall in love and begin a lifelong relationship of passion, stewardship, and exploration. In Sylvia Earle’s words, ” we protect what we love.”

6. Can you tell us about one of the coolest moments you’ve had in the water with sharks?

Probably my favorite encounter was in Bimini. I was doing a research experience for a week and we had just headed out the place where they see a lot of great hammerheads without any luck. As we made our way back, we saw a free swimming hammer on the surface. Before they even killed the engines I was in the water. For that brief moment it was just me and her. She came right up to me so curious and graceful. There was not one part of my body that was scared . She was easily the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Medusa.

Jilly diving with great whites credit: Mike Coots

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