“I’m not sure why, but I’ve had a fascination with sharks for as long as I can remember,” said VanGilder (BSJ, 2013). “I grew up watching the movie ‘JAWS,’ and I would get shark toys for Christmas and birthdays.”
Growing up in Fairmont, West Virginia, VanGilder only imagined seeing a shark in its natural environment, but in October she fulfilled that dream. She participated in a one-month internship with White Shark Africa, a great white shark conservation and ecotourism program in Mossel Bay, South Africa.
One of the organization’s main goals is to educate people about the dramatic decline in the world’s shark population and to change negative perceptions about sharks. They do this through community outreach, boat tours to view and learn about sharks in the wild, and other educational programs.