Meet Sharks4Kids Ambassador Jenny Bortoluzzi
Jenny is currently a PhD researcher at Trinity College Dublin where she is studying the ecology of large marine predators. Jenny will be doing school visits in the region as well as teaching students via Skype. We are thrilled to welcome Jenny to the team! Thanks for sharing your shark story with us!
1. What's your favorite species of shark? I have to say, it's a very tough choice, but my favorite shark by a very narrow margin is the Thresher shark. Thresher sharks are not only beautiful and unique among the sharks, they are also one of the few who have evolved a distinctive hunting method using their tail like a whip to knock-out fish before scooping them up. 2. Which species of shark(s) are you most hoping to dive with/see/study? My one shark goal for 2020 is to see and swim with a basking shark. They've evaded me for years now and I really hope this year is the year! As for studying, I really hope to one day get to study chimeras, also know as ghost sharks. Chimeras are severely understudied and so interesting! 3. What inspired you to pursue marine biology?
I grew up about an hour's drive from the sea in France and spent most of my summer bent over rock pools looking for all the creatures that lived in them. This interest grew into a deep fascination for what was below the surface. On a family trip to Canada, my parents took us whale watching. At age 13, school took us to see the movie Sharkwater by Rob Stewart, I fell in love with sharks and from then on was determined to "save them". I don't think I ever thought of doing anything else than marine biology from then on.
4. Why do you think science is important for conservation?
Science is what gives us the knowledge and facts necessary for conservation to be effective. If we don't know information such what animals do, what they eat, where they go, why and for how long, we cannot pretend to know where or how to protect them. By basing our conservation efforts in science, we can find the best solutions to protect species and people together. 5. What is the coolest/most interesting thing you've seen while studying sharks?
As a freshly graduated field assistant on an expedition in the Arctic, I assisted a PhD researchers with his study of Greenland sharks. Not only did I get to see and tag some Greenland sharks but I also got to assist with the dissection of some individuals (research carried out under permit). It was really interesting to get to know these fascinating animals up close, and even cooler to discover polar bear fur in one of the stomachs!
6. What is the most challenging thing about your work with sharks?
The challenges I face are multiple. One is financial : studying sharks is expensive, from equipment to travel. Another is that I sometimes struggle to be taken seriously as a woman, or for my physical capabilities to be regularly underestimated. The last is the effect it can have on my mental health, seeing the ever increasing threats and damage done to sharks around the world can be very draining and it can be hard to see the positives. When that happens, it's important to take a step back and look around at the amazing community of people working tirelessly to make changes. 7. Why do you want to teach kids about sharks and share your experience with them?
Kids are a driving force in holding governments, and people in general, accountable for their actions and decisions. They are fascinated by Nature and the wild world around them; by teaching children about sharks, I hope to inspire them to share that knowledge around them and, in turn, to create a community of advocates for these animals. I'm also very passionate about inspiring young girls to pursue careers in STEM and for these children to keep the flame of curiosity awake, to always continue exploring and learning about our oceans and our planet.