Meet Sharks4Kids Ambassador Barbara Mattiace
We are excited to welcome Barbara to our ambassador team! She has been doing virtual lessons and events! Learn more about Barbara below!
I am a native Floridian that has spent most of my life on or near the water. I grew up watching The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. He was such a pioneer and inspired my desire to learn and experience as much as I could about the ocean. I am now an environmentalist and a conservationist. Scuba diving has been my passion for over 10 years. During that time, I started shark diving and was hooked! I spend a lot of my time diving off the Southeast coast of Florida, local freshwater springs and on occasion the Bahamas. Diving allows me to see a world that most people never get to experience. Sharing my adventures and the creatures I see with kids is so much fun. I believe when kids are taught the truth about sharks, they are not afraid and understand how important it is to protect them. Also, educating people on how to live a life that doesn’t negatively affect the planet is very important to me. People don’t realize there are so many easy things that they can do to protect it, they just need to learn what they are.
1. What is your favorite shark and why?
Fins up for the Epaulette shark. So many sharks have great adaptations, but I think a shark that has learned how to walk is pretty jawesome! They live in shallow, coastal, areas where they can sometimes get trapped in the tide pools as the tide goes out. They have evolved over time to use their pectoral fins almost like feet. They can push themselves along the rocks to get to deeper water so that they don’t die in the hot sun or be eaten by seabirds flying overhead. They also have a beautiful skin pattern with a large black spot on their side. This resembles an eye of a much larger animal. That discourages any predators that may want to attack them.
2. What is one species of shark you would like to dive with?
I think that diving with a White shark would be the ultimate bucket list shark dive. They are such incredible fish. I think being able to come in close contact with one and see just how powerful and graceful they really are would be an incredible experience. Not to mention the fintastic pictures you would be able to take!
3. Why do you want to teach students about sharks?
I think learning the truth about sharks at a young age is so important. Kid’s minds are so open to learning new things. Making sure that they learn scientific facts and not what Hollywood portrays sharks to be is the first step in creating future shark advocates. Facts not fear. I love hearing them say “That’s so cool” when they learn something new. Our planet needs healthy oceans, and we can’t have that without sharks. Kids are the voice of tomorrow; we owe it to them to provide them with knowledge. It’s also great when you can do this in a fun way.
4. Why did you start shark diving? What inspired you?
Shortly after I started diving, I was in West Palm beach diving with friends. All of a sudden, I looked to my left and there was a large lemon shark swimming past me. My heart starting racing, I had no idea what to expect. This was the first time I had seen a shark while diving. The shark looked over at me and just kept swimming by. He could have cared less that I was there. I was amazed that he didn’t come after me! After that a good friend of mine got me into shark diving and shark conservation. The more I learn about sharks the more amazing they become to me.
5. What is one thing you wish everyone knew about sharks?
I wish people knew how important they were to the balance of the ocean’s ecosystem. Sharks have been around for about 400 million years; they have successfully adapted to so many different environmental changes over this time. We are killing over 100 million sharks a year, faster than they can reproduce. We can not have healthy oceans without sharks.
6. What is the coolest moment you have had with sharks?
The first time I dove in the Bahamas we were looking to dive with Hammerheads. The first one was a large female. I was so excited! Then I heard the dive guide clanging on his tank and signaling that a Tiger shark had been spotted. I was so excited, it felt like my heart would beat out of my chest! When she came close, and I could see how big and beautiful she was I literally squealed under water. She was so amazing and graceful. You could see her stripes and her head was so wide! I will say that she definitely demanded my respect.