Project Leader

Jeff Whitty

Jeff Whitty

Who I am

My passion in life grew from a clam. Growing up in Seattle, I spent a lot of time at the ocean, where my family and I explored tidal pools, combed beaches and hunted for clams, crabs and shrimp. I also spent time fishing and swimming in nearby lakes, where I encountered a whole new world of aquatic life. When I was in the 5th grade, I was snorkelling in a lake when I stumbled upon what I thought were the same clams that I had found in the ocean. I was astonished to find these saltwater clams in a freshwater lake and thought that I had made a new scientific discovery. To my dismay, my ‘discovery’ was of a freshwater mussel and nothing new, but this temporary ‘eureka!’ moment provided the spark that ignited my passion for marine biology.
I was fortunate to have parents who encouraged me to follow my passion and supportive mentors who helped me find my footing as a young biologist. After college, I was given an amazing opportunity to volunteer on a research project exploring manta ray movements in Indonesia. From this project, I knew I wanted to continue working with elasmobranchs. I pursued a graduate degree in marine science at Murdoch University in Western Australia, where I studied the ecology of sawfish and river sharks. During my studies, it became painfully clear how few people knew about these fishes and how little data about them existed. To help promote sawfish education, research and conservation, I founded the Sawfish Conservation Society (SCS). Today I continue to work on sawfish education and outreach with the SCS and conduct research on the behavioural ecology of elasmobranchs and diadromous fishes.

Where I work

The SCS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity based in Florida, USA, although its footprint is global. It is run by a five-person board and a handful of volunteer staff and is supported by thousands of members, including sawfish researchers, educators, aquarists, managers, fishers and enthusiasts, who donate their time and resources to advancing the mission of the SCS: to connect the world to promote global sawfish education, research and conservation. This is accomplished by educating the public via outreach and school events, informative materials and online interactions; by providing tools and platforms to sawfish researchers to assist in their work; and by furthering collaboration.

What I do

Promoting education about sawfish is an important component of the SCS, as public knowledge about these species and public involvement in conservation efforts are needed to protect these imperilled fish. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of sawfish or their status and educational materials about sawfish are limited in number, languages and availability. At the SCS, we aim to address this gap. Being a small group, the SCS must use creative approaches to maximise its efforts and reach, which has led to our project ‘Translating Sawfish Education into Conservation’. In this project, we are designing and testing various outreach materials that will be made available online and globally to interested groups. These outreach materials will be produced in multiple languages that are commonly used in countries around the world where sawfish can be found. Their purpose will be to educate the public and they will be available for conservation, research, educational and government groups to use when they host their own outreach events and promote sawfish conservation in their local communities.

My project

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