In 2020, a white woman was taking a walk in New York’s Central Park when she was asked to leash her dog by Christian Cooper, a Black bird-watcher. She responded by calling the police and falsely accusing him of assault. Cooper caught the moment on his phone, the video went viral, and for Carlee Jackson and three other young Black women working in shark science, the moment proved to be pivotal.
“After that incident, I joined the #BlackInNature and posted an image of myself with sea turtles and sharks,” recalls Jackson. “I wasn’t expecting anything to come from it, but I wanted to help break the stereotype that Black people don’t like nature. Suddenly I had over 5,000 likes, and a comment from another Black woman in shark science. I had never seen a Black person in shark science before, let alone a Black woman.”
Soon afterwards, four young female Black scientists, all of whom worked with sharks, met on zoom and co-founded Minorities in Shark Science (MISS), with the aim of promoting diversity and inclusion in shark science. Two years later and MISS has already won a BOAT International and Blue Marine Foundation Ocean Award Awards Winners, and has grown into a global community of over four hundred members from over 25 countries.
In an exclusive interview as part of Ocean Talks, Carlee Jackson, MISS’s director of communications, talks to BOAT International about the journey so far and why she hopes that MISS will be part of a larger movement that breaks barriers and ensures that young gender minorities of colour will never feel as isolated as she once did. The podcast is now available to listen to on Apple podcasts or Spotify.