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There's a push to diversify shark research and marine biology

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Posted at 8:48 AM, Mar 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-07 10:48:26-05

SARASOTA, Fla. — Jasmin Graham loves the ocean. An unexplored world underneath the surface led her to become a marine biologist at a young age, but she quickly discovered the field is lacking diversity.

An estimated 71% of Marine Biologists are white. Ten percent are Asian and about 8% are Hispanic or Latino. Only 3% in the marine biology field are Black.

During the pandemic, Graham and a group of other Black shark researchers founded Minorities In Shark Sciences, or MISS. Their goal is to diversify STEAM fields.

To understand the reasons behind some disparities, Graham says you must look below the surface. An estimated 64% of Black children can’t swim. Compare that to 40% percent of white children who can't swim.

Graham knows first-hand that access to water can also be discriminatory.

"My dad grew up two blocks away from the ocean but wasn't allowed to go to it because that was the 'white beach,'" she said. "They had to drive 45 minutes to go to the 'Black beach.'"

The mission of MISS is to provide mentors and internship opportunities to kids from diverse backgrounds. They help people get SCUBA certified and assist Black students in college with publishing articles. They also provide on-the-water workshops during school breaks.

The group serves people of all ages who want to get into marine biology.

"Getting kids interested in science. All programs are free and include transportation. That’s a big issue, 'Can you actually get to the ocean,'" she added.

Graham's hope is to someday help set the sun on the status quo while opening the eyes of a new generation to the field she loves.