Dr. Eugenie Clark

Known as The Shark Lady, integral in changing the attitudes towards #sharks, and #women in #ichtyology.

Eugenie Clark, Sci-Illustrate Stories

Featuring artwork by Miler Ximeno Lopez (Milo) & words by Dr. Roopali Chaudhary, Sci-Illustrate Stories. Set in motion by Dr. Radhika Patnala.

Sharks, one of the most fascinating and oldest creatures on the planet, have gotten a bad rap over the years as Hollywood and “Shark Week” continue to portray them as threatening predators. In fact, there are over 400 shark species, evolved over 450 million years playing an integral part of the oceanic food chain. No one knew this better than the Shark Lady herself, Dr. Eugenie Clark.

Dr. Eugenie Clark, a Japanese American born in 1922, changed the face of marine biology, being one of the only ichthyologists (fish biologist) who studied living specimens via scuba diving in her time. She often credited her childhood visits to the New York Aquarium, together with her Japanese heritage, for fostering her passion of the ocean and all living things below sea level. Dr. Clark attained her Bachelors in Zoology from Hunter College (c. 1942) and her Masters from New York University (c. 1946), while working as a chemist in a plastics company during the latter degree. In 1950, her research on live-bearing reproduction (“test-tube” fish babies) of platy and swordtail fish earned her PhD degree from New York University.

Over her extensive 60 year career, Dr. Clark discovered several fish species, was the first person to train a shark to show behavioural responses (the first demonstration of sharks’ intelligence), and the first to describe hermaphrodism in fish (she found that belted sandfish could go from male to female, and reverse, within 10 sec!). She documented sleeping sharks in underwater caves in Mexico and Japan, challenging the conventional thinking that sharks must constantly move for oxygen exchange. She participated in about 72 dives in submersibles, the last of which was in June 2014, just 8 months before she passed away in February 2015 at the age of 92.

Dr. Clark was a fierce marine conservationist, and a spectacular science communicator. She wrote more than 175 articles for academic and popular media, 2 memoirs, 1 children’s book, and had numerous appearances on TV shows. She had the ability to spread her infectious enthusiasm of science and sharks to anyone, whether they be noted ichthyologists or a class full of 10 year olds. With her passion for conservation and science education, she influenced important people around the world. She worked closely with Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian president, to help create their first marine preserve in the country. Her book, Lady with a Spear, inspired philanthropists Anne and William Vanderbilt to fund the Mote Marine Laboratory, of which Dr. Clark was the founding director.

As a child, Dr. Clark had great curiosity, love for all things ocean and wished to swim with sharks. She made her childhood dreams a reality, never losing her curiosity or passion for the oceanic life. In fact, she even rode a pregnant whale shark once, grabbing a fold of skin under it’s dorsal fin (not that she recommended everyone do this). Not only did Dr. Clark’s research change the way we view and study sharks, but she also paved the way for many young women scientists in the field who came after her. For all her contribution, Dr. Clark has received numerous distinctions and awards, and even has several species of fish named in her honour, with the latest one being identified as the Genie’s dogfish, a species of shark from the Gulf of Mexico and western Atlantic.

Sources:

  1. https://msa.maryland.gov/msa/educ/exhibits/womenshall/html/clark.html
  2. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Eugenie-Clark
  3. https://ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/sharks-rays/eugenie-clark-shark-lady
  4. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/may15/eugenie-clark.html
  5. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/eugenie-clark-ichthyologist-who-overcame-gender-barriers-to-become-one-of-the-world-s-leading-10107625.html
  6. https://www.scubadiving.com/becoming-shark-lady-legacy-eugenie-clark
  7. https://cmns.umd.edu/news-events/features/2829
  8. https://www.floridatrend.com/article/24995/newly-discovered-shark-species-honors-female-pioneer

About the author:

DR. ROOPALI CHAUDHARY

Content Editor Women in Science, Sci-Illustrate Stories

Dr. Chaudhary has an MSc in Genetics (University of Waterloo, Canada) studying Drosophilaembryogenesis (fruit fly embryo development), and a PhD in Cellular & Molecular Biology (McMaster University, Canada) studying intestinal inflammation in a novel mouse model. She furthered her career in a 3-year post-doctoral fellowship studying the immune memory in food allergies (McMaster University, Canada). Dr. Chaudhary’s continually strives to make science accessible, be with through her edible science art (custom cakes), teaching or her outreach activities.

About the artist:

MILER XIMENA LÓPEZ

Contributing Artist Women in Science, Sci-Illustrate stories

Expressing myself graphically has always been a source of great satisfaction for me. With my work, I can provide many things to others in different positive ways, as well as get a lot in return, because in every goal achieved, in every process, there is a lot to learn.

About this series:

Not enough can be said about the amazing Women in Science who did and continue to do their part in moving the world forward.

Every month, through the artwork & words of the Sci-Illustrate team, we will bring to you profiles of women who touched our hearts (and brains) with their scientific works, and of many more who currently hold the flag high in their own fields!

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