What does allyship look like? A Book review: Minorities in Shark Sciences Diverse Voices in Shark Research

by Jordyn Neal of Dr. Misty Paig-Tran’s FABB (Functional Anatomy, Biomechanics, and Biomaterials) Lab

“There is a lack of diversity in science due to systemic obstacles which have excluded and continue to exclude BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) scientists and scientists from other marginalized communities”

p177 from the book

As somebody who isn’t a part of the BIPOC or LGBTQ+ community, I had a difficult time writing this blog. Not solely because I am not a part of a marginalized community, but because of the weight and message behind the book. This book explores everything shark while simultaneously showcasing the work done by the BIPOC and LGTBTQ+ community around the world, highlighting new and important research in shark science and conservation.

After MISS partnered with National Geographic for SharkFest, Jasmin Graham, CEO of MISS (Minorities in Shark Science), explained that they “..work hard to increase accessibility for minorities to enter the field of shark science. Representation in the media is vitally important for encouraging young people to pursue STEM careers.”

Representation of minority voices in science is crucial for bringing to light the lack of diversity in marine science. Jasmin also discusses increasing accessibility, and this book did just that. It was written in a way that was approachable to a lay audience, but as someone with a STEM and shark science background, it also grasped and held my attention throughout the entire book.

The book talked about a variety of topics that were thought-provoking and engaging. My favorite was how the book broke down, step by step, a sharks predation event from the physiology behind sensing its prey, the biomechanics involved in catching its prey, all the way to ingestion.

“This book offers diverse viewpoints from currently practicing shark scientists conducting groundbreaking research and whose work aims to promote ways of promoting shark conservation and research that is equitable and inclusive.”

Pxxi of the book

Each chapter brought different perspectives and voices. The main theme interwoven into the book, as the title suggests, “amplifies [the] often-forgotten voices” in STEM and combines science and BIPOC knowledge. An important topic discussed throughout the book is effective science communication and the perception of sharks.

As MISS expressed in Chapter 1 of Public Perceptions of Sharks, “several factors lead to a fear of sharks. Lack of knowledge. Lack of exposure to or familiarity with the ocean, and the portrayal of sharks in the media.” They discuss how building trust between the scientific community and the public can positively impact the way that as a society, we view sharks. If we can effectively communicate science and combine different cultures understandings, beliefs, and perspectives of sharks, then trust can be built within the community.

The conclusion of the book, written by Dr. David Shiffman, an Interdisciplinary Environmental Scientist, and other contributors, explained what allyship looks like. It introduces the “concept of being an ally, someone who tries to use their privilege to lower barriers and make their workplace, community, or field a more welcoming, inclusive, and safe place for everyone.”

David Shiffman via @WhySharksMatter. David is an interdisciplinary marine conservation biologist

Allyship, in practice, means speaking up “in support of the perspectives of those from marginalized communities and avoid speaking for them.” It entails equal opportunity and ensuring everyone around you “gets the same opportunities.” And it means listening to underrepresented voices and amplifying them.

Throughout the book, there is a hopeful and optimistic tone regarding the field of shark science moving forward. Minority voices have not been heard because they have been systematically excluded, but this book seeks to create a deeper understanding and appreciation for this misunderstood, “scary” creature while also giving minority voices in STEM a chance to be heard.

Connect with Jasmin via

@Elasmo_Gal of through @MISS_Elasmo

and buy


Connect with blogger Jordyn Neal

Jordyn Neal received a B.S. from Cal Poly Humboldt in Marine Biology and is a current M.S student at CSUF. Jordyn is in Dr. Misty Paig-Tran’s FABB (Functional Anatomy, Biomechanics, and Biomaterials) Lab, researching the filter morphology and filtration mechanism of the Megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios).

Twitter: @JordynNeal24

Author: suzannecrmiller

Author of Queen, Wage, The Selections on Amazon, Fly on site and soon to be Souvenir through @Inkdedingray publishing

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