Tyler Mace is a Westport teenager. He recently graduated from King School in Stamford, where he played hockey on a state championship team, lacrosse on a division-winning squad, and was named a “Teen to Watch” by Moffly Media.
This fall, he heads to the University of Miami, to pursue his passion: shark research. Two years ago, “06880” profiled Tyler (he was about to be on Discovery Channel’s “Sharkadelic Summer”).
This year, news of recent shark activity in Long Island Sound has worried some area residents. Tyler eases our minds:
I have always been fascinated and amazed by sharks. When I was very little, my mom would tint my bath water blue. I would wear a mask and snorkel, and play with plastic marine animals underwater.
As I grew, I watched River Monsters. and of course Shark Week. I was incredibly fortunate to find top shark scientist Dr. Craig O’Connell, and the summer camp he runs through his foundation, O’Seas Conservation Foundation.
After just one summer working at his camp, he invited me to Guadalupe Island in Mexico, to dive and help with his research on the largest great white sharks in the world (we’re talking 18 feet and 4,000 pounds!).
I became his first ever research fellow. and got to appear along side him on one of his episodes for Shark Week in “Sharkadelic Summer” (narrated by Snoop Dogg. It’s airing again this Shark Week (Thursday, July 28, 5 p.m).
His work is inspirational/ Following in his footsteps, I started a 501(c)3 foundation, The Shark Side in 2020 during COVID. Our goal is to support shark and marine biology research projects, to help with shark conservation and research.
So far, I have raised over $18,000. The money is used for research projects I believe will make a direct impact on shark conservation, and for things such as shark tags to help with tracking for research — and also to help humans and sharks safely co-exist.
Next summer, The Shark Side will sponsor a student to attend Dr. O’Connell’s camp. I am happy to pay it forward, and give someone the same life-changing experience that I had.
I will continue to run the foundation while at college, hoping to raise money to eventually fund my own research project.
At the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, I will pursue a BS in the Marine Biology and Ecology program. I hope to join their renowned shark research program.
I have an idea that I hope to pursue for research, but I also hope to help spread the word that sharks are an essential part of our ecosystem, not the scary man-eating predators many fear when they think of “Jaws.”
In fact, “Jaws” author Peter Benchley was often quoted as regretting the fear of sharks that his book and movie created. He became a full-time marine conservationist, often advocating for the preservation and conservation of sharks.
People hear about the shark attacks in Long Island and panic, thinking sharks are trying to eat them. That could not be further from the truth.
Most shark bites are just that — bites — not massive thrashings. Most often, a person is misidentified as food, but once the shark bites, it realizes its mistake and goes away.
How likely are you to die from a shark attack? In 2021, according to The Florida Museum of National History’s International Shark File, there were just 73 unprovoked shark bites worldwide. Only 9 of them resulted in death.
Time to go back in the water! And, if you’d like, to donate to Tyler Mace’s Shark Side foundation.
(Like Shark Side, “06880” is a non-profit. Please click here to support our work.)