Carlee Jackson was six years old when she fell in love with sharks. She was at a book fair with her mother when she spotted a volume with a shark on the cover and had to have it. By the age of 13, she had read all the shark books in her neighborhood library. This was in Detroit, hundreds of miles from the ocean; her parents figured she’d outgrow the obsession. It never happened.
Jackson eventually found her way to the sea, earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from Florida Atlantic University. Sharks still called to her, but it wasn’t until Jackson was in graduate school for marine science that she finally got close to one.
“When we pulled up our first shark, I was in awe. It was a lemon shark,” she says, recalling the day she and her fellow graduate students were off the coast of Broward County, Florida. They captured the shark and secured it to the side of the boat. The students then took fin and skin samples, determined its sex, and measured it. Finally, they put an identification tag on the animal. “I just remember thinking, this is exactly what I want to do,” she says.