Hannah Medd is a #womeninSTEM that has done it all. Having earned dual degrees in Marine Biology and Ecology from Florida Tech in Melbourne, Florida, she is a part of multiple programs: Shark Angels, Shark Savers, Manta Ray of Hope, and is co-founder the American Shark Conservancy (ASC).
Hannah was kind enough to take some time from her busy schedule and talk to The Fins United Initiative!
The Fins United Initiative: You truly are passionate about the ocean-- as part of Shark Angels, Shark Savers, Manta Ray of Hope, co-founder the American Shark Conservancy (ASC), etc. Why? What drew you to the ocean?
Medd: My passion for the ocean is based on nature and nurture. I think I have an inherent affinity for the mysteries of the ocean and the lifestyle that comes with pursuing those. I am comfortable on and in the water; I have been since my parents threw me in the ocean as a baby. My parents instilled in me a sense of discovery and confidence to explore.
TFUI: Always good things to instill young!
Medd: I love wild places, where nature goes about its business as it has done since the beginning, long before humans. Whether it is scuba diving with lemon sharks cruising the deep ledge off Florida or photographing a giraffe loping along a ridge in the bush of Africa, these natural scenes make sense to me. Once I understood the ocean a little better, through my personal and academic journeys, I realized that the ocean is facing some serious threats. We can no longer claim that the ocean is an inexhaustible resource. I also noticed that not everyone knew what I knew, stoking my interest and investment into outreach. I felt compelled to move ocean conservation forward. And still, behind all the science, there is a wide-eyed girl who just simply loves sharks, fish, seaweed, salt air, and flips flops.
TFUI: I know the background of ASC, but want to hear about the thought process behind the founding of this organization.
Medd: I founded ASC based on the work I continued to do after ending my job with a large, international non-profit conservation organization. The organization changed tack which caused a bit of a vacuum locally for outreach and education. On the science side of things, most research being done along the coast of Florida is conducted by students and labs at major universities, focused mainly on tagging and tracking. We believe that we fill a niche, a unique approach to include the community as much as possible in our research projects that are built around regional conservation priorities. The overall goal for ASC is to develop both educational programs and conduct conservation-driven research to promote healthy marine ecosystems and create scientifically literate communities.
TFUI: What did you see lacking in other programs that ASC came up with? What is your overall goal for ASC?
Medd: SharkSmarts is our multi-platform education program that will be going digital in 2016! We are working on partnerships within the dive community and environmental educators to provide an online course in shark conservation to serve as professional development. With hundreds of dive operations, nature centers, zoos, aquariums, and parks, Florida has an army of shark conservationists on the bench, waiting to teach the public about the importance of sharks!
TFUI: Who’s inspired you most in your science career?
Medd: I was inspired early on by Dr. Eugenie Clark. Her book “Lady with a Spear” was such an awesome look into true exploration. I always followed the work of Sarah Fowler, Sonja Fordham, Dr. Debra Abercrombie, Dr. Michelle Heupel, Shelley Clarke. I met my science hero, Dr. Tammy Smythe, in graduate school when she was just a PhD. candidate in the same lab. She walked me through experimental design, statistics and models, all while balancing academics and family life. She saved an entire chapter of my thesis by reworking some graphs and she continues to be the hardest working, smartest female scientist that I have ever met and I am lucky enough to call a friend.
TFUI: You are a role model for #womeninSTEM: care to say anything to those girls who want to be just like you?
Medd: I want girls interested in science to know that they can have a fulfilling, impactful, career in science if they are brave! Speak up, ask questions, reach out to people, take advice, listen and don’t be afraid to get creative. It is not always just about the pure science, there are tons of skills that apply to the real world, think outside the academic box.
the fins united initiative would like to thank hannah for her time
TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
SEE MELISSA'S TEDx TALK HERE:
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