Dr. Eugenie Clark... gone?
However, I don't want to make this post something saddening. She wouldn't have wanted that.
Instead, I want to talk about what an inspiration this woman was to both girls and boys alike.
If you want to talk about a shining star in their respective field, look no further than Dr. Eugenie Clark- affectionately nicknamed “The Shark Lady.” She is a pioneer in many ways: as a woman scientist, in the field of scuba diving for research, and as a shark researcher, to name a few.
Today, we want to celebrate the life and achievements of Dr. Eugenie Clark. To do that, we must share how she blasted through obstacles that existed for female scientists and paved the way for women who are interested in ocean research and conservation.
- She trained during a time that was neither common nor welcoming for women. Dr. Clark began her academic track in the early 1940’s, a time that was not used to seeing women in such a rigorous scientific field. She is also of Japanese-American descent, and may have faced more resistance due to the post World War II culture. Sexism and racism? Not an easy path by any measure.
- She paved the way for using scuba diving as a research tool. In 1946, she began diving with a helmet and she first encountered a shark in 1947 in the Palau Islands. Since then, she has dove thousands of times, and has even participated in 73 submersible dives (with some dives being more than 300 m/1,000 ft deep). She is a member of the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame, along with Cousteau. By the way, did you know she was a part of the 1968 crew on Calypso? Yeah, we’re talking about Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s Calypso, the one that went on a global oceanic tour.
- She made groundbreaking discoveries. She helped discover the whale shark’s breeding method (live birth) through observations made in 1995. She developed a technique in making “test tube babies” in fish. She challenged fish behavior that was once thought to be “set in stone.” Well into her 90’s, she was still conducting research- yes, that includes diving and going out into the field.
- She was in charge of her own laboratory. Practically unheard of back then. She built Mote Marine Laboratory (then known as Cape Haze Marine Laboratory) in 1955 and the one-woman operation grew to the powerhouse research laboratory, education center and aquarium it is today. And she was there until the very end (I saw her office!). The lab was originally supported by the Vanderbilt family.
- She is highly respected by her peers. Dr. Clark was famous for her hard work and passion, never taking “no” for an answer and always working around obstacles. Her work has been recognized by numerous organizations. She carried the flag of the Society of Women Geographers to Ethiopia and dove with it off Japan and Egypt. She also carried the National Geographic Society flag to Egypt, Israel, Australia, Japan and Mexico. The National Geographic Society even referenced “Eugenie Clark’s 13 grants exploring ocean life, especially sharks” in their “Top 10 grants” that has contributed greatly to the understanding of our planet.
- She has animals named after her. You know you’ve made it big when you reach this level. Several fish species have been named in her honor: Callogobius clarki (Goren), Sticharium clarkae George and Springer, Enneapterygius clarkae Holleman, and Atrobucca geniae Ben-Tuvia and Trewavas.
To Dr. Eugenie Clark: Thank you. You were, and will continue to be, an inspiration for every girl who wishes to spend her days under the ocean waves. (In fact, you were an inspiration to boy and girl alike!) May you rest in peace and know you’ve truly made a difference in so many lives.
Did you have any special memories with Dr. Clark?
Were you inspired by her? Share below!