Jasmin and her team create content to teach the general public about elasmobranchs (sharks, skates and rays), the threats they face and current conservation efforts to protect them. Gill Guardians is a freely available online hub that connects people globally to engage with elasmobranch science and conservation. They offer video lessons, activities and quizzes. They also host live virtual seminars to bridge the gap between scientists and the public, and grow a new generation of conservation-minded shark advocates.
Elasmobranch ecology and evolution is my special field of interest, with past research topics including the movement ecology of the smalltooth sawfish and the phylogeny of hammerhead sharks. I’m a member of the American Elasmobranch Society and served on its Student Affairs Committee for two years. I have completed internships with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Fort Johnson Marine Lab and FWC Division of Marine Fisheries Management, and worked as an instructor for the Saturday at the Sea programme through the Florida State University Office of STEM Teaching Activities. Science education and making science more accessible for...
The key objective of this project is to increase scientific literacy and engage stakeholders in elasmobranch conservation so that they can be allies in the fight to protect the world’s oceans and their inhabitants.
As environmental pressures, many of which are driven by humans, continue to increase, we are seeing declines in many elasmobranch species. By raising awareness about these declines and cultivating a scientifically literate society, we hope to create a societal shift that will push for increased protection for threatened species. Providing the public with accessible and up-to-date scientific information can help them stay well informed and bridge the gap between scientists, policy-makers and the public.
For this project we will be creating an online educational resource for the general public that will synthesise current research in the field of elasmobranch conservation. The site will feature self-guided courses and lessons for people to learn about the many endangered elasmobranch species. It will contain video lectures, activities, videos from the field, infographics and articles. Visitors to the site will have an opportunity to learn more about marine policy as it relates to endangered elasmobranchs and will be provided with information about basic biology, a history of elasmobranch conservation and tips for identifying species. The site will also create a space for accessible communication of the latest elasmobranch conservation research. It will not only have materials for adults, but will also feature age-appropriate conservation lessons. In addition to the site, I will create materials and activities that will facilitate engaging with the public at events.
The general aim is to create educational resources that allow the general public to engage with conservation science and marine policy in an accessible and synthesised manner. We will accomplish this by focusing on five main objectives:
Demian’s team is developing tools that help border control officers identify illegal shark products. His project is sifting through ‘rhino ray’ DNA sequences looking for differences in code between the guitarfishes, giant guitarfishes and wedgefishes nicknamed for their pointy snouts (and Endangered status). Months of testing will help ensure only rhino ray DNA is targeted before the team flies to Hong Kong to help officials use a portable DNA tester. This project will add to the arsenal currently being used to identify illegal shark fins moving across borders, and help stop the trafficking of ‘rhino ray’ fins.
Aristide created a citizen science platform and mobile app for fishers across Cameroon’s 400 km coastline to record sightings of sharks, rays and marine life. These photos are uploaded to iNaturalist where they are identified and will serve to create Cameroon’s first elasmobranch atlas. Together with his team, Aristide ensures data are being uploaded, visits fish landing sites to assess bycatch and measure sharks, and scours the beaches to check for strandings and sea turtle nests. He collects tissue samples of threatened species in these visits that can give more insights into the diversity, population size and structure of vulnerable sharks.
Ali is collaborating with researchers across North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean to develop support tools for guitarfish conservation. As an advocate, much of her work is completed behind a computer and locked in meetings, but her goal is to help bring awareness to the Threatened status of guitarfish in the Mediterranean. As the current Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust, Ali represents a large number of regional partners to engage with governments, develop new resources and coordinate guitarfish conservation activities.