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Eugenie Clark, The ‘Shark Lady’ Who Took a Bite Out of Marine Biology

Knowing that public perception and conservation efforts are intrinsically linked—traditionally, studies have found “flagship species” that are viewed more positively or considered cuter (like polar bears or pandas) have been favored both as recipients of donations and funding, and as research subjects—Clark dedicated herself to “rebranding” sharks as creatures worthy of saving. Protecting marine life and their habitats was of the upmost importance to Eugenie, and she devoted her life to educating people on the importance of sharks to their ecosystem.

One way that Clark made use of her expert communication skills was as an educator; while she held many teaching positions at different universities throughout her career, the longest by far was at the University of Maryland, where she joined the faculty in 1968, became a full professor in 1973, and where she remained until her retirement in 1992.

Conservation and research truly were lifetime pursuits for Clark: when she died at age 92 in 2015, after having battled lung cancer for several years, her obituary, The New York Times counted that over a nearly 75-year long career she “wrote three books, 80 scientific treatises and more than 70 articles and professional papers; lectured at 60 American universities and in 19 countries abroad; appeared in 50 television specials and documentaries; was the subject of many biographies and profiles; made intriguing scientific discoveries; and had four species of fish named for her.”

To be able to publish all of this work, she made more than 5,000 dives over the course of her life, the last of which took place only a year before she died, in 2014. The long list of awards she received during her lifetime included a Medal of Excellence from the American Society of Oceanographers, a place in the International SCUBA Diving Hall of Fame, and the Legend of the Sea Award from Beneath the Sea, among many others.


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