Black History Month: Meet MISS, an Organization Dedicated to Empowering Tomorrow’s Shark Scientists

Photo credit: Minorities in Shark Science

Black History Month celebrates the achievements of the African American community and their critical role in United States history. Each year, in recognition of Black History Month, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation shares stories of Black individuals who have shaped the past and present of our national marine sanctuaries.

Written by: Naissa Lopez (She/Her), Communications Coordinator, Minorities in Shark Science 

I would like to introduce you to an organization that is changing the game in marine science. 

Minorities in Shark Sciences (MISS) is a nonprofit that was founded by four Black women who currently work in the always-compelling world of shark science. With a mission to advance the field of shark, ray and other marine sciences by challenging the status quo of underrepresentation of gender minorities from historically-excluded communities of color and the Global South, MISS aims to provide accessible and equitable pathways to research, conservation, and education. 

MISS Was Born on Social Media 

Photo credit: Minorities in Shark Science

In June 2020, amid the tumultuousness of the Covid-19 pandemic, Jasmin Graham, Carlee Bohannon, Amani Webber-Schultz, and Jaida Elcock each came across a hashtag on X (formerly known as Twitter) called #BlackInNature. The hashtag was started as a response to an alarming incident in which a Black man named Christian Cooper had the police called on him while he was bird watching in New York City’s Central Park. Through this chance interaction, introductions were made, ideas were sprouted, and Minorities in Shark Sciences was born. 

MISS President and CEO Jasmin Graham recalled meeting fellow co-founder Carlee Bohannon for the first time. 

“From this hashtag I was able to find Carlee, who posted a tweet about her shark research. That was the first time I had ever met another Black woman who did shark science. I replied to her tweet, and the other MISS cofounders popped in. We jokingly said we should start a club.” 

Fully taking advantage of the digital environment that seemed to take over amid the pandemic, the organization’s founders utilized every crevice of communication technology to build MISS. 

“We ran MISS for almost a year without meeting each other,” said CFO and co-founder Amani Webber-Schultz. “We used Zoom, Slack, and texting.” 

Since that virtual conversation almost four years ago, MISS has continued to provide community and funded opportunities for gender minorities of color who hope to build a career in the field of shark science. 

Co-founder Jaida Elcock expressed that MISS was started from their passion for this field, and their desire to see similar faces studying in the future. This is something that the organization continues to demonstrate through service. 

“MISS was born from the internet, and from civil unrest. It also began from us sick of being the only Black women in the room at conferences. It’s a great way for us to come together as women and gender minorities of color currently in the field.” 

MISS Programs 

Photo credit: Minorities in Shark Science

MISS has several programs dedicated to serving students in the community, like Science at the Sea, a free program open to K-12 students from under-served communities that provides engaging marine science curriculum and activities to help increase scientific literacy and environmental stewardship. 

There is also the Diversifying Ocean Sciences initiative, which is a free, year-long hybrid program for people to hone in on their ocean science skills, build their network, and receive mentorship. Participants are divided up into concentrations based on their interests and goals. The experience culminates with a week-long, hands-on, intensive in-person workshop, and a week-long shoreside or remote experience.  

There are also several additional educational and outreach programs, workshops, and even fellowships that happen through the entire year! 

What’s Next for MISS? 

Photo credit: Minorities in Shark Science

Currently, the team at MISS is gearing up to welcome a new cohort of interns and fellows who will gain invaluable experience working alongside this dedicated group of shark scientists. There are also several engagements happening soon in the spring and summer, and of course, general awareness campaigns about sharks and their importance to our ecosystem that happen all year long. 

There is also a MISS Summer Camp happening in a few short months in which 13–17-year-old students from historically excluded groups participate in a few outdoor activities including fishing, kayaking, coding, and even field surveys! The camp aims to provide free, accessible science experiences for teens to introduce them to the wonderful world of nature and all things STEM, supported by an Ocean Odyssey Education grant from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and NOAA Ocean Exploration.  

It’s safe to say that there is never a dull moment at Minorities in Shark Sciences. 

How to Get Involved 

Photo credit: Minorities in Shark Science

Whether through membership, giving, volunteering, or representing the organization wherever you go with MISS merchandise, there are numerous ways to get involved! 

MISS currently has over 300 members in 30 countries, and that number is always growing. Gender minorities of color from any career stage, or who aspire to become shark scientists, are welcome to apply to become MISS Members. 

There are also Friends of MISS, who do not identify as gender minorities of color, but are also part of the MISS family! Friends of MISS also participate in networking events and mentoring programs. 

MISS is proud to be a safe space, and both Members and Friends of MISS are held to a high standard and must demonstrate allyship, inclusivity, ethical conduct, and support the mission of MISS through words, actions, and deeds. Members and Friends of MISS work in tandem to continue the mission, create opportunities, and empower the future of shark science.  

So, there you have it! You have read through a quick rundown about one of the newest, dedicated, game-changing organizations in shark science. An organization like MISS has been a long time coming, and thanks to four amazing Black women who are changing the status quo, it is finally here.  

To learn more about MISS and its programs, visit 

Photo credit: Minorities in Shark Science