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Cool Job: Deep-Sea Videographer
Off the coast of Miami, marine biologists lift a hammerhead shark into their boat and affix a GPS-enabled satellite tag to its dorsal fin. When the 14-footer re-enters the water, Christine Shepard, 22, swims up to it with her video camera—filming alongside a shark more than double her size.
"Once I swam with sharks up close," says the California-born conservationist, "I just fell in love." As the multimedia specialist for the R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program (RJD) at the University of Miami, Shepard shoots footage for documentary videos and interactive Web applications—resources RJD hopes will raise awareness about the perils these creatures currently face.
Some experts estimate that as many as 270,000 sharks are killed daily to satiate the Asian demand for shark fin soup. Last year the RJD team tagged 392 sharks, using information from the sensors to learn where the fish migrate, feed, mate and give birth, and whether marine protected areas are helping populations rebound.
Shepard follows an important safety rule: Don't look like a fish. She wears a black wet suit (sparkle could be mistaken for scales), swims vertically (fish swim horizontally) and looks her subjects in the eye. "Eye contact tells them, 'I see you; you see me; let's be respectful of each other,'" says Shepard, who believes capturing an intimate view of these misunderstood predators is integral to their survival. "Filming sharks face-to-face helps people see beyond our ideas about them," she says—namely, that they're vicious killers. "I feel as much a connection with them as I would with a cuddly animal. The hope is that once more people understand sharks, they'll be inspired to save them.
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