Amani is a PhD student at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Her research will focus on shark morphology and biomechanics. Amani is one of the co-founders and Chief Financial Officer for MISS. She is also co-host of the Sharkpedia podcast!
Q1. Did you always want to be a marine biologist growing up?
Like most children, I bounced back and forth often between different careers. I jumped from veterinarian to FBI agent to marine biologist to military test pilot. In all that jumping around I always ended up back at a career that involved animals. Eventually, marine biologist was the career I chose.
Q2. What was one of the best experiences you had that was directly due to your career?
I think one of the best experiences I ever had was over the summer when I was helping to teach an introduction to shark research course. One of the participants on the boat came up to me and said she was so excited to see another woman of color there. What she said fulfilled our goal with MISS which was to show that there are women of color in shark science.
Q3. We have to ask; do you have a favorite shark?
Assuming Jasmin already put hers as the Bonnet head shark (which is also one of my favorites), I’ll go ahead and say my favorite is the great hammerhead.
Great Hammerhead shark
Q4. Have you had any unexpected experiences thanks to your career path?
I never expected to be in a museum. MISS is currently featured in the Sharks exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History. The MISS portion features slides about all the co-founders and then information about MISS. I have to say, I did not know how excited I’d be to see myself in AMNH.
Q5. Do you have any advice for other women who are dabbling with the idea of a career in science?
I just say go for it if it’s what you want to do! Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot do something.
Q6. Do you think under-representation was a stumbling block for yourself or others entering the field of science?
It was. It was a very conscious decision for me to decide to go into a career where I’d continue having to be the only one who looked like me in a room. There’s been a lot of weight associated with that decision. I remember when I decided to continue in marine biology, while I was excited about a career in it, I also felt sad at look of the lonely road I was choosing to take. Minorities in Shark Sciences (MISS) has brought me so much relief in that area because it has shown me how many women of color are in my field.
Q7. What are the biggest challenges facing girls and women of colour within science and research?
Misogyny, discrimination, racism, accessibility. The list goes on and on.
Q8. Have you had the privilege of working with many other women scientists in your field?
Absolutely. I have met and worked with so many more amazing women shark scientists than I can count. I'll list just a few who have been pivotal to my career: Dr. Catherine Macdonald, Dr. Julia Wester, and Dr. Brooke Flammang all helped me get to where I am today and have given me welcoming, safe spaces to learn and grow in. And of course my MISS co-founders Jasmin, Jaida, and Carlee who have supported me and become some of my best friends.
We hope that you found Amani’s interview inspiring and encouraging.
You can see more from Amani on her:
Check out the Podcast on Instagram at @sharkpediapod (and in all the places you find podcasts).
Join our next MISS live chat on March 18th at 7:30pm EST / 7:30am March 19th Thai time.
If you haven’t check it out already and want to know more about MISS then check out our other blog post about their incredible organization.