• The Gills Club inspiring next generation of female shark scientists

    By: Sarah Wroblewski

    Updated:

    CHATHAM, Mass. - Inspiring the next generation of ocean advocates. 

    The Gills Club is the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy's all-girls STEM-based education initiative.

    "They [sharks] don't attack people on purpose. So we are trying to normalize them and make it so people aren't afraid of them," said a Gills Club student.

    A big task for a group of fourth-grade girls who participated in the Future Problem Solvers at Barnstable United on Cape Cod.

    "This group identified sharks and how people are fearful of them," said Jeanie Bahgosian, Gateway teacher at Barnstable United for Future Problem Solvers. 

    "Like if you were underwater and look up and saw a person on their surfboard with their arms up, it would kinda look like a seal. So that's what the sharks think, so it's not fair for people to try to get the sharks away when they think you are just their main food source," said a student.

    RELATED: Chatham Shark Center researching, tagging and teaching all about sharks

    Marianne Long is the co-founder of the Gills Club. 

    "The girls reached out to me, which was really great to have this letter come in from a group of fourth-grade students and to see the steps they had already for process for their project, so I was really excited to come in and work with them," said Long. 

    The Gills Club is empowering our next generation of female shark scientists and also boosting the chances of those young girls entering a career in science. 

    "It was an idea that came to us, because we kept meeting all these young girls, who were excited about sharks and had an interest, and they were being told that sharks are for boys or they didn't realize all the incredible woman who work in shark research or who work in the different stem based careers," said Long. "So we wanted to build that connection for them, and to develop their understanding and to further their knowledge of sharks but to also see the career path of how too they could work with sharks one day."

    The Gills Club started four years ago, but already is making an impact. Especially on the students. 

    "I think it is just exciting that in working with The Gills Club science team we are learning about shark research as it's happening."

    "When these girls feel empowered to the point that they have learned something, they're confident in what they learned, that then they can share it out."

    To learn more about the Gills Club, click here. 

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