An Interview with WiseOceans… Jillian Morris from Sharks4Kids
This week we are in Bimini, Bahamas with Jillian Morris Founder of Sharks4Kids. Perfect advice to everyone – wake up and do what you love because it really makes life so much better! Read on to hear what Jillian has done to get to where she is now….
Name: Jillian Morris
Job Title: Founder & President
- What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
I have always loved the ocean. I grew up exploring tide pools along the coast of Maine and knew by the age of 5 that I wanted to be a marine biologist. My mom was also very eco conscious my whole life, so she instilled in me the desire to do my part for the planet. Combining this with diving and my work with sharks, a natural progression towards conservation happened; how could I not do my part to save these amazing animals?
- What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
My main goal now is to teach as many kids as possible about sharks, why they are so important and how, no matter where they live, they can make a difference and help these animals and the oceans. Sharks4Kids is expanding and each year our reach is extending to more kids in more countries. Through our Skype program alone we have connected with over 50,000 students in 39 different countries. I have also always wanted to write a children’s book, so I made that dream a reality with the publishing of Norman the Nurse Shark in June 2016. It has been a wonderful adventure filled with challenges and some truly inspiring moments. This is my life and my passion and I feel so blessed to be able to take steps every day to keep the program growing
- How did you land your current job/position?
After years of working in the field, diving, filming and photography, I decided to combine it all and create a shark education program to teach kids about these incredible animals. I founded Sharks4Kids in 2012 and we launched our website in 2013. Essentially I created my position by finding a way to combine my experience with my passion.
- Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
Every day is different. Some days I am teaching kids how to tag sharks and other days I am photographing great hammerhead sharks, which keeps life interesting and keeps me energized to keep working on new projects and new ways to connect kids to the underwater world. Ultimately though, the most amazing days are the ones when a student that tells me sharks are bad comes up at the end of a lesson and says they really want to help sharks. Seeing that transition happen makes my heart truly happy.
- Are there aspects of your position, which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
I feel inspired and feel like I am making a difference when a teacher sends me pictures of posters students have made, ones that say ‘save sharks’ or ‘stop killing sharks.’ I love when I have the opportunity to witness fear evolve into fascination when we take kids to see sharks. They might scream at first, but then they don’t want to get out of the water. In just 3 years we’ve spoken with over 65,000 kids in 43 different countries both in person and via Skype with our classroom programs. There are so many little moments that happen with students that get me through even the most frustrating days in the world of shark conservation.
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
I wish I had started Sharks4Kids sooner. I thought I would have to fit into a particular job description or choose one path versus another, but in reality I was able to walk multiple paths at the same time and create something I love and something I believe in.
- Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
A lot of the web design work and aspects of business that I never envisioned myself doing have actually become an interesting part of the job. I don’t love it, but I understand how important it is and it allows me to learn new things all the time, outside my normal area of interest and expertise.
- What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
Volunteer! Getting involved and getting experience is so important. Do not be afraid to get in there and get your hands dirty. It will make your soul happy, but also make you more of an asset if applying for jobs. I would also say never give up. I created my job because I knew what I wanted and went after it. Wake up and do what you love because it really makes life so much better!
- What is your favourite marine creature and why?
The great hammerhead shark is my favourite animal on the planet. Those eyes and that head; nothing else like it in the water. We are lucky to be able to spend a lot of time with them in Bimini, where I live. They are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List, so being able to share their story and to learn more about them is so important and I feel really lucky to do so.
- What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
I would have to say witnessing a lemon shark give birth to 10 pups was the most unforgettable moment I have had in the water. To see the life of a shark start is remarkable and something I will never forget. Watching those little sharks swim off into the mangroves and see how much effort the mother made to get there, is just a reminder of how strong, but delicate the ocean and her inhabitants are.
Thanks Jillian for your advise. How amazing and what a privilege to see those lemon sharks being born.
Meet Norman the nurse shark – Stuck for that perfect present for a budding young marine biologist? We love this book by Jillian from Sharks4Kids and think you will too. Join Norman on a ‘fintastic’ journey through the Bahamas to try and find his family. Along the way he makes some unlikely friends, faces great danger and begins to discover just what kind of animal he is.
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