Rebranding sharks

  • Sharks
Years funded
  • 2013, 2014
  • Archived
Project type
  • Conservation

Chris loves sharks, but studies people. He has used his expertise in political science to understand how people perceive sharks and what this means for conservation.

Rebranding sharks

Christopher Neff

Project leader
About the project leader

As an American political scientist specialising in public attitudes and policy responses to shark bites, I am pleased and honoured to have been a Save Our Seas Foundation advisor in 2013. You could say that I began my research at the age of eight, watching the movie Jaws. I was in awe of sharks and began reading all the available books about them, which included the classic oceanography writings of Ron and Valerie Taylor.

For me, shark bite policy responses have a vital role to play in the conservation of sharks because these predators can only be protected successfully if we...

PROJECT LOCATION : Australia, United States and England
Project details

Rethinking Public Education about Sharks

Key objective

Take data gathered on public perceptions about sharks and shark attacks (referred to as shark bite incidents) into the field and aquariums to test new evidence-based messages that can be used to improve shark conservation education. This project expands on previous SOSF-funded work by Chris Neff.

Why is this important

Understanding the way humans fear sharks and what methods may be possible to reduce those fears provides an opportunity help more people to care about sharks. Such understanding could change the nature of shark conservation education.


Rethinking shark education is important because for conservation of apex predators to succeed it must contend with instinctual emotional responses. For instance, Cantor (2004) notes that, ‘If we experience intense fear while watching Jaws, our implicit fear reactions became conditioned to the image of the sharks, to the notion of swimming, to the musical score – most likely a combination of the stimuli in the movie.’ To address this, I will produce an educational curriculum that can be used to improve shark conservation based on ‘fear extinction’ (Navarette 2009) and limiting fear-conditioning stimuli.

Aims & objectives
  • Learn from the public about how current methods of shark education are being perceived and how they are impacting the public’s level of support for shark conservation, particularly regarding species that can be perceived as dangerous.
  • Test and design an evidence-based educational curriculum that will improve public perceptions about sharks, especially potentially dangerous shark species.
  • Provide a new curriculum template for shark conservation education that can be used for shark education in aquariums and interactive displays around the world.”