Our first Women In Science feature for 2022 brings you not just one amazing woman, but a team of FOUR… We are bringing you the scientists behind MISS - Minorities In Shark Sciences. Based in the USA, Amani Webber-Schultz, Carlee Jackson, Jaida Elcock and Jasmin Graham make up the founding team of MISS and they have accomplished a huge amount since they started the organization in 2020.
What Is MISS
MISS in a non-profit organization offering educational workshops, work experience, fellowships, mentorships, webinars, outreach programs and financial support to minorities, giving them the support they deserve in shark science.
Everything started with a Twitter thread by Carlee:
Their initial goal was to create a community and offer workshops, but it has evolved into so much more, and these four women have created a membership which is 400+ strong in a very short space of time.
“We were founded by four Black female shark researchers. We strive to be seen and take up space in a discipline which has been largely inaccessible for women like us. We strive to be positive role models for the next generation. We seek to promote diversity and inclusion in shark science and encourage women of color to push through barriers and contribute knowledge in marine science.
Finally, we hope to topple the system that has historically excluded women like us and create an equitable path to shark science. We believe diversity in scientists creates diversity in thought, which leads to innovation.”
Shark Guardian started our Women In Science feature to highlight that women are underrepresented in the STEM fields, but after connecting with Amani, Carlee, Jaida and Jasmin we have realized that there is a whole other level to this underrepresentation which MISS is addressing, and this is why we really wanted to feature the organization. All four women have spoken about lack of opportunities that they have faced on their journeys, and you can read more about this in their individual blogs coming up over the coming weeks.
Here are some of their thoughts and goals for MISS.
“We, the founders of MISS, never had a network of women of color for support and encouragement as we moved into the field of shark science. Our hope is to give future shark scientists what we wish we had.”
“Although we cannot tackle every barrier, we hope to address the following roadblocks: accessibility, financial barriers, lack of mentor-ship and lack of representation. Representation matters and currently the vast majority of shark programming features white men. Unpaid and volunteer positions create an unnecessary divide between those with means and those without. We pledge to absorb all costs for participants in our programs”
“We can all relate to the struggle of finding a role model and being in a field that is completely lacking in diversity. We stand by the idea that a diversity in people leads to a diversity of ideas.”
The workshops and projects are offered by MISS in several avenues… Some are offered to members and others are public events. They have achieved so much in such a short space of time!
Gill Guardians creates content to educate the public about sharks, skates and rays and is suitable for kids and adults. Content covers conservation and how to take action!
Their Fellowships give members the opportunity to apply for positions on research trips. These are an incredible opportunity for members to get out there and do some field work with elasmos!
Rising Tides is their mentorship program which encourages and supports women of colour to have a mentor / mentee relationship, working on a funded research project together. As the four founders noted that this was something that was lacking in availability, they feel that this is an important thing to offer to increase retention in STEM fields.
Science By The Sea is a series of marine science programs for kids who have historically been excluded in STEM.
MISS Summer Camp is a free marine science program aimed at minorities including gender minorities, racial/ethnic minorities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and people from low income or underserved communities.
How To Support
MISS in donation-based and several of their projects are still open for funding. Donations go directly to support participants on their workshops covering travel, materials, and program costs. Businesses can also donate items such as t-shirts, field clothes, marketing materials and text books.
How To Join
Women of color, whether they are aspiring or experienced shark scientists can apply for membership directly on the MISS website:
What’s Coming Up
We will be featuring each of the four founding women in blog posts over February and March… Look out for the previews on our social media feeds and stories. You’ll be able to read their individual stories of how they got into the field of shark sciences in these interviews and learn about their research with sharks, the challenges they have faced as Black women in this challenging field and much more.
We will also be hosting two Instagram live chats with them – Stay tuned for dates of these in February and March! You will be able to send in your questions for them via the usual channels and we will ask them for you during the Live chats.