Meet Sharks4Kids Regional Outreach Director Michelle Andersen
Michelle Andersen is originally from Minnesota, but is currently living in the Tampa area of Florida and studying marine biology. Michelle worked as an educator at the Florida Aquarium and gained a lot of experience while volunteering at the world renowned Bimini Biological Field Station (interested check out their website for volunteer opportunities). She loves working with kids and we are thrilled to have her as part of our Tampa/St. Pete education team.Michelle will be doing Skype lessons and classroom visits to help Sharks4Kids continue to spread shark education.
1. How old were you when you saw your first shark?
I’ve been watching sharks on television for as long as I can remember but the first shark I saw in person was a little White Spotted Bamboo Shark at the Minnesota Zoo back in the fourth grade. I’m not sure if I even recognized it as a shark at first because it looked nothing like the Great White Sharks on TV. A zoo volunteer told me I could touch the sharks and that’s when I realized how different and special these animals can be.
2. What is your favorite species of shark and why?
Well with over 500 species it’s hard to pick a favorite!! I once heard someone respond to this question by saying, “I don’t know. I haven’t seen them all yet.” Every time I get to swim with a new species it becomes my favorite! Currently though, my favorites are Tiger Sharks, Great Hammerhead Sharks, and Thresher Sharks.
3. What is one shark you would like to see in the wild?
I haven’t been in the water with Thresher Sharks yet so they are next on my list! They use their long tail like a baseball bat to hunt and I think they look like the puppies dogs of the sea! Look them up!
4. Why do you want to be a marine biologist?
I want to help! We need the ocean and all of its marine critters! Even If you don’t live near the ocean it still works hard for you! If gives you oxygen, food and absorbs a lot of heat and carbon emissions! The ocean and its residents are in trouble and they are depending on US!
5. Why do you think shark education is important?
Protecting our sharks is a big step in protecting our oceans! But it’s impossible to protect something you don’t know or care about! Sharks have a reputation for being monsters and the stars of scary movies but nothing could be further from the truth! They protect the balance of the food web and scientists can look to sharks for ideas in medicine, engineering and other sciences. Sometimes sharks make mistakes just like everyone does but we can’t forget all the good that they do for the oceans and us! What if someone made movies about all of your mistakes and only your mistakes? How would you look?
6. What is one of most interesting thing you have gotten to see/do working with sharks?
Swimming with Caribbean Reef Sharks in the Bahamas is one of my favorite activities. Swimming side by side with these sharks showed me that there is a personality in there. Not a mindless predator. They will make eye contact with you as much as you do with them and if you swim too close by them they are easy to dart away. They see YOU as a predator too!
7. Do you think science is important for conservation?
Science and conservations should always go hand in hand. Scientists may work for years on answering a single question and conservation is about using what they learn. For example how can we protect and conserve a shark species if we don’t know where they live? Every single shark species is different. Some stay around one area and some travel across oceans their entire lives.