CHATHAM (CBS) — Spotting sharks off the coast of Cape Cod has become a common occurrence each summer lately. As the seal population has grown, so has the white shark population.
The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy has been working with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries over the years to provide funding and resources to support research about these animals off our coast and the impact to the community.READ MORE: Nearly Half A Million Lose Power As Nor'easter Hits Massachusetts
“It’s very motivating, and I’ve never been in a role where the results of my research are directly impacting the community as much as I’ve had here and the results of the research matter as much as they do here,” said Megan Winton.
Winton is the first staff scientist hired by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy in Chatham.
“I’ve worked really closely with this organization since 2015 when I started as a PHD student at UMASS Dartmouth and just to watch the way they’ve grown and not only their commitment to research but to the community and providing the results of the research to the community. Educating the public and getting kids interested in science. It’s just a great fit,” Winton says.
Winton explains her job combines everything she is passionate about. She first became interested in sharks when she was in elementary school and would visit family in Florida and see fisherman catch sharks off the coast.
“I asked my mom to get me books on sharks and started reading about them, kind of out of a place of fear, the more I learned about them, the more I realized how fascinating these animals were. And I was just hooked,” Winton explained.
Her path continued to the coast of Cape Cod. This is where she has been tracking and studying great white sharks the last six summers.
“It never gets old. We’ve done this a lot… at this point. So I started working on the population study in 2015. And have been on almost every research trip since then. You’d think at some point you’d get tired at looking at these things… but you just don’t. Every time there is excitement,” Winton explains.READ MORE: Plymouth Homeowners Scramble For Emergency Supplies After Damage From Nor'easter
Research this summer will focus on white shark behavior with a special emphasis on public safety.
“From a perspective of a shark scientist it’s been great having these animals essentially in my back yard,” Winton says.
It’s more than the passion behind her work that gets her excited, it’s also getting young girls interested in science.
“The Gills Club is one of my favorite things! So the Gills Club was started by the conservancy to not only get girls interested in science…but to keep them interested in science as they grow up,” Winton says.
Atlantic White Shark Conservancy Education Director Marianne Long knows the impact scientists like Megan can make on a younger generation.
“We really want them to have role models and they can say… wow that’s something I can do one day,” Long says. Long also explains one of the benefits of the Gills Club. “It really has built this community where they get to see being into science is cool.”
Winton has some advice for young girls interested in STEM.
“There is no such thing as a stereotypical scientist, which is one thing I have loved finding out as I’ve progressed along the way of my career. Scientists come in all forms… and just stay excited,” Winton explains.MORE NEWS: 'The Wind Was Crazy': Almost All Of Scituate Without Power After Nor'easter
To learn more about the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy and the Gills Club, visit https://www.atlanticwhiteshark.org/gills-club.