I am extremely excited to introduce one of my personal heroes, Jillian Morris, (Sharky Jillian) and the commission she had made for her awesome husband's birthday present! I was following her on Instagram, admiring all of the amazing things that she does and hoping to meet and collaborate with her someday, when she contacted me about this special gift! I present to you another amazing, ocean lover, that will wow and inspire you after reading her interview!
Tell me a little about yourself and what you do?
I was born and raised in Maine and have loved the ocean since I was a baby ( according to my parents). I am a marine biologist, videogpraher, photographer and ocean advocate who is obsessed with sharks and by obsessed I mean I had a shark themed wedding! I now travel the world filming for various networks like BBC, Animal Planet, Discovery and National Geographic. My husband Duncan and I run a conservation media company called Oceanicallstars, producing conservation media with a focus on sharks. I have also recently launched a new non-profit called Sharks4Kids designed
to provide materials for teachers and students about sharks and shark conservation. We want to create the next generation of shark advocates through education, outreach and adventure. This is my passion project and something I so thrilled has become a reality. Most of my days are spent doing something involving sharks and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Why did you want this specific commission?
Duncan and I live on the tiny island of South Bimini in the Bahamas and each winter the great hammerheads migrate through this area. Duncan and I have both loved hammerheads before we loved each other. We each have hammerhead tattoos and have some incredible moments with these animals. They are our favorite animal on the planet and we feel extremely blessed to dive with this endangered species as often as we do. When I saw Carly's work I knew she could create something special to add to our collection, a one of a kind piece that highlights our love and passion for the ocean and these animals. Diving with a great hammerhead is probably one of the most amazing things I have done in my life and something I hope we can share with our children in the future.
What is one of the best stories you have to share about your work with sharks?
I love every moment in the water with sharks, but there are two particular experiences that really stand out. The first would have to be diving with great whites out of the cage at Isla Guadalupe. I had a large female swim over me and we made eye contact. Even as I type this it gives me goosebumps. To connect, for just a moment, with such a large and magnificent predator is one of those moments that truly take your breath away.
The other was the opportunity to see a lemon shark give birth. Lemon sharks give birth to live young and the pups must break free from their umbilical cords and instantly fight for survival. It is remarkable to see perfect miniature copies, weak and vulnerable, come into the world and within seconds become a shark. It reminds us that even the ocean's mightiest predators start out small and fragile.
What else would you like to share with people about sharks and their importance to our planet?
Sharks are amazing creatures that get a very bad reputation. They are not man eating monsters, in fact they are critical to the health of our oceans. Approximately 100 million are being killed each year. They do not lay thousands of eggs like other fish, so it is difficult for them to recover from this kind of devastation. They really need our help and very simple things such as recycling or doing a beach cleanup can make a difference for not only our oceans, but sharks. Also being an educated consumer and knowing where the products you buy are coming from. Major US retailers sell shark cartilage pills, fish markets or specialty grocers sell shark fin, shark meet and other medicines made from ground up shark cartilage and souvenir shops sell shark teeth, jaws and embryos in jars. As smart consumers, we can all make the choice not to spend our money on these products. Our money pushes the demand and when we stop spending the demand will drop. We all have a voice and we can all make an expert. I would also encourage people to snorkel or scuba dive with sharks. Seeing them in the wild and having you own personal experience is really the strongest way to combat against ridiculous stereotypes. They are graceful and magnificent to watch and spend a moment with, so dive in and explore their world.
Thank you so much for sharing, Jillian! I am so happy that I was able to get to know you through this experience, and I know you and Duncan will continue to educate and inspire others to also help protect the Ocean through everything that you do!
Photo Descriptions and credits:
1. Sharky wedding cake. Credit: Matthew Potenski
2. Jillian filming a great hammerhead in Bimini. Credit: Grant Johnson
3. Jillian filming a tiger shark ( bio pic) Credit: Duncan Brake
4. Jillian and Duncan in Bimini
Carly Mejeur is a floridian artist, inspired by her ocean hobbies and travels. This Blog is for news, events, and just for fun. Click here for the artist's Bio.