July 28, 2014

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The Gills Club is proud to be onboard as new partners at Mission Blue! We were founded in January 2014 when folks at The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, a non-profit based on Cape Cod, Massachusetts realized how many young girls were fascinated by sharks, but were lacking strong female role models in the arena.  They saw that by putting these young girls together with women shark scientists, they could be inspired and empowered to act on their interest in sharks by becoming marine biologists, or even take up a different STEM field of their choice.

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Each month, The Gills Club publishes a newsletter featuring two female shark biologists, who tell why they’re interested in sharks, what institutions or organizations they’ve found helpful to them personally, and what particular area of shark research they’re working on now.

Each month we also feature a different shark species, allowing members to learn about the diversity that exists within the 450+ species of sharks inhabiting the world’s ocean. In addition we highlight an educational shark-fact activity. Of course there is also a member spotlight, showing how Gills members have taken their passion for sharks and shared it in their community, distinguishing them as emerging leaders.

The Gills Club was originally envisioned for girls ages 8 to 14, but we quickly realized that this concept appealed to girls and women of all ages. The current age range is 3-60! Girls as young as 4 look forward to having their parents read the monthly newsletter to them – a great way to reach the older generation as well! Older adults, who have always loved the ocean, but had been discouraged against a career in marine biology because it “was not suitable for women,” follow our monthly e-newsletter and blog, sharing their enthusiasm and getting an education they never dreamed of.

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We are expanding our network by joining forces with the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster, MA, and the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, FL, hosting monthly meetings where the girls learn about things such as shark anatomy, diet, and tagging techniques used by researchers.  Local educators have caught on to The Gills Club, and encourage girls to attend meetings.

One father recently told the founders that his 9 year old had been struggling with science, so her teacher recommended they look into The Gills Club. After joining and attending a few meetings, the family saw their daughter become noticeably more interested in science, and her grades improved!  In addition to our meetings, several enthusiastic parents have helped organize independent gatherings of Gills Club members to have shark-themed birthday parties and snow-day activities!

The Gills Club has been successful largely because of the Gills Club Science Team, a group of 30 plus international female shark scientists. Members of the team volunteer to be interviewed, share their stories and experiences, discuss their research and career paths, and then follow up with members’ questions and comments that have been posted on The Gills Club Facebook Page. Through social media, members can engage with the Science Team directly, ask questions and learn more about how these women have pursued their careers. It also allows members to exchange ideas about ways to engage kids in shark education, share ideas about college choices, as well as provide a place where the Science Team can be acknowledged for the hard work they do.

The Gills Club is free to all thanks to the support of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy and generous sponsorships from partner organizations, individuals and companies. 

You can join the Gills club by visiting: www.gillsclub.org

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