Nonprofits OCEARCH and Atlantic White Shark Conservancy have made a significant impact in the shark research world by providing funding and resources for critical shark studies. This month, the organizations are teaming up to connect a lucky group of Gills Club members to research through a STEM-based mock shark tagging event aboard the M/V OCEARCH.

The Gills Club is Atlantic White Shark Conservancy's STEM-based education initiative dedicated to connecting girls with female scientists from around the world, sharing knowledge, and inspiring shark and ocean conservation. “Girls have historically received less encouragement to pursue courses of study in the sciences," explained Cynthia Wigren, President of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy. "Even now, the gender disparity in higher education and workplace reflects continued male bias. By introducing young girls to STEM-based lessons in shark research, the Gills Club is equipping the next generation of ocean stewards and boosting their chances of entering a career in science."

Biologist Mel Gonzalez De Acevedo was not quite prepared for the reception she got from the group of 1st through 5th grade girls at the inaugural meeting of the Gills Club in Jacksonville this January; De Acevedo was prepared to address a group of beginners but in fact these young ladies possessed knowledge of shark biology she recalls not learning until college. On March 15th, this group of shark savvy girls at the Fernandina Beach Christian Academy will be given the opportunity of a lifetime when they board the M/V OCEARCH, a 126-foot vessel equipped with a custom 55,000 hydraulic lift and research platform, for a mock shark tagging event.

“Every job within the 21st century requires skills in science, technology, engineering and math. STEM education prepares our students to become creative and innovative problem solvers, researchers, engineers, and designers," said Chris Fischer, OCEARCH Founding Chairman and Expedition Leader. "This Jacksonville Gills Club event will introduce girls to the scientific investigation process, and demonstrate applications of technology and engineering in field research. They’ll discover the different types of tags and biological sampling methods, the purpose each serves, as well as application techniques. They will also be asked to interpret actual data that has been collected and have the opportunity to speak with OCEARCH crew and scientists about their tasks while performing shark research.”