Fin Tastic Team Interviews: Meet Zack Cole
We are continuing with our November team features. Meet biologist and ambassador Zack Cole.
1. How long have you been involved with Sharks4Kids?
I started with Sharks4kids officially back in September 2017 when S4K ambassador extraordinaire Mollie Getson brought me along on a school presentation.
2. What has been a highlight moment while working with Sharks4Kids?
I think that a lot of parents and teachers don't realize that their children know so much about sharks. It really shows that children are watching educational content, instead of silly cartoons. My favorite moments are when student blurt out something that their teachers never realized their students knew. In doing school visits the students get to show off their knowledge that they normally couldn't. I'm always so happy when students get to impress their teachers and peers with their shark knowledge. Either naming incredibly obscure sharks (You'd be surprised how many kids know what a Wobbegong is). Or one specific instance comes to mind where a student asked me in front of her class "Mr. Zack, I read in a paper by Dr. Hall et al, It says that its inaccurate to describe sharks reproductive system as "Ovoviviparious" and instead use "Aplacental Viviparity" as a better description, is that true?"... My jaw dropped because that was a college level question coming from a girl who was Nine years old. Your kids know a lot more than you may think, and S4K is a great platform for them to show that knowledge off.
3. What made you interested in sharks?
When I was a kid, the original Jurassic park had just come out and all kids had dino fever. I really loved Sam Neill's character Alan Grant, and I wanted be a Paleontologist like him. So at age 4 I started collecting fossils and learning about dinosaurs. Well in Florida, where Im from, its very easy to find fossils, if you know where to look. The easiest fossils to find, being shark teeth. I started learning about the fossil shark teeth I was collecting and realized that sharks are not only older than the dinosaurs, but they are still alive today. At that young age, it started an obsession to learn more about these evolutionary heavy weight champions and all the difficulties they encounter today with their biggest threat...Humans.
4. Favorite shark experience:
I think my favorite moment so far happened when I lived in Hawaii for a time as a kid, I was 12. I was learning to surf with some friends off electric beach on Oahu, and paddling out past the breakers when I noticed a small reef shark swimming in my board's shadow just below me. It was minding its own business, and seeing this fish, that so many people fear, just being completely placid and relaxed. It was my first encounter with a wild shark and this fish wasnt the terrible man eating monster so many people think it is. I realized then, that everyone understood sharks wrong, and I wanted to correct that misconception. Social justice for sharks I suppose.
5. What do you look forward to in the future with Sharks4kids?
Doing more school visits. I work for the fisheries and planning school visits in advance is a bit difficult for my schedule, but hopefully I can spend more time teaching in the future. In the mean time, I run a small YouTube channel dedicated to teaching viewers about marine life.