Political science major and Balfour Scholar Lindsey Nielsen ’11 spent her summer in Kleinbaai, South Africa, conducting research to help protect, of all things, sharks. She interned with White Shark Projects, an eco-tourism, research and conservation group dedicated to correcting misconceptions about sharks and stopping needless slaughter of the animals.
Cutting it close: “The boat that we were working on was an 11-meter, four-ton catamaran that was custom-built for cage diving. I was in the cage every day that we were at sea. My job from the cage was to observe the activity, markings, size and sex of the sharks that were lured close to the cage with the bait line. The very first shark that I saw while at sea was a shark that the crew members on the boat recognized and had named. His name was ‘Slash Fin’ because his dorsal fin had been cut by a boat propeller.”
Reality bites: “Instead of an electric current of fear running through my body, I was struck by the overwhelming realization that the great white shark, while being an apex predator, is also incredibly vulnerable and susceptible to the elements of its surroundings.”
Deep observation: “My volunteer work really substantiated the value and applicability of the ‘Connections’ program at Wheaton. One of my ‘Connections,’ ‘Politics and Global Change,’ links ‘International Politics’ and science classes. Just as these topics are connected in the classrooms at Wheaton, so too are they connected in the waters of the West Atlantic and East Indian oceans. Within the last 30 years alone, the world shark population has been cut by 75 percent, due largely to the demand in Asian markets for fins to produce shark fin soup, which is a traditional Chinese delicacy, once only accessible to the affluent. However, because the world’s middle class has expanded, so too has the demand for shark fin soup, and subsequently, for shark fins.”