Meet Sharks4Kids Regional Ambassador Jessica Woodend.
Jessica is a traveling naturalist with the Chewonki Foundation in Wiscasset, Maine. She teaches students around the state about wildlife and why it is important. Jessica wanted to include sharks and ocean education in this program and we are thrilled to have her working with us. Our founder Jillian is from Maine and LOVES sharing shark education with students in her home state!
1. What is your favorite shark and why?
Nurse Sharks fascinate me, its fun to find them taking naps under coral ledges during the day. Lately though, I’ve been really intrigued by Epaulette Sharks. They use their pectoral fins to “walk”, how cool is that!
2. What is one shark you would like to see in the wild?
Whale Sharks are on my life list of animals that I would love to see in the wild, just to be in the presence of the largest fish in the sea would be very humbling. I would also really love to see Hammerheads in the wild. With their unique look and abilities, it would be interesting to see them in action.
3. What inspired you to become a science educator? Can you tell us a little about your job?
Growing up in Michigan, I loved going to nature programs at nature centers, state and national parks as often as I could. After college, I traveled around the country working different environmental education jobs. I realized quickly that I had a passion for teaching others about the animals that most people fear or misunderstand. Whether it was talking about wolves and bears in Montana, snakes in Texas, or bats in Maine. I love being the champion for those that are misunderstood (and now sharks!!). Currently I work as a traveling naturalist for a non-profit environmental education foundation here in Maine. We take in non-releasable (usually due to injury) wild animals. I help to take care of them and I travel to schools, libraries, camps, senior centers, etc. to educate the public about these animals and their habitats. I take some of the animals along with me, so the audience gets a truly unique face to face with these animals (mostly land animals like owls, reptiles, bats but also tide pool creatures). I’m excited to get into more of the marine education side of things with Sharks4Kids!
4. Can you tell us about one of your coolest shark moments?
I spent my 30th birthday down in the Florida Keys, snorkeling and scuba diving. My favorite moment was when I was at Molasses Reef, and I was the only one in the water. I was at a shallower area of the reef and noticed a Caribbean Reef Shark in the distance, I headed over towards it and the two of us swam around together for a few minutes and it felt like we were the only two animals in the ocean at that moment. I was in complete awe watching this fascinating animal swimming by. Best birthday memory ever!
5. Why do you think shark education is important?
Everyone in the world benefits from the ocean, but there are a lot of things working against the ocean (and sharks) right now and its up to us to work harder to protect it. Sharks are a key part of that, being the top of the ocean’s food chain, they are what keeps everything else in balance. Everything in the ocean ecosystem is connected, without sharks everything would fall apart. Education creates knowledge, knowledge creates awareness, awareness leads to caring about, caring about leads to caring for.
6. What message do you hope to teach to kids about sharks?
I hope to teach kids about the important roles that sharks play in their habitat, and the importance of those roles. I also want to teach about how many different types of sharks there are on this planet, since society has taught us to have one image of all sharks, I want to help to change that one image. Where I am in Maine, a lot of people do not realize that we do have sharks off the coast and they are affected by the fishing industries that people here thrive on. I want to help make more sustainable choices on how we harvest from the ocean here in Maine.