As an underwater photographer, there is no animal more charismatic and exciting to create an image of than a shark. As a biologist, there is no marine creature more impressively adapted to life as an apex predator than a shark is. As a writer, there is no story more polarizing or important to tell than that of a shark. And as a conservationist, there is no animal that needs more help with PR than a shark does. Being both critically important and chronically misunderstood is a tough act to balance, so it is my greatest hope that through images, articles, and activism, we can all work together to tip the scales in favor of sharks around the world.
My name is Alex Rose, and I’m a problem solver. Officially, I’m the Science Editor of Ocean Geographic Magazine and founder of ocean conservation company, Blue Ring. I’m also an underwater photographer, environmental journalist, science communicator, professional violinist, PADI Divemaster, and Explorers Club Fellow. I have many jobs, but they’re all connected by the driving goal of finding ways to protect our world’s precious marine habitats through every means at my disposal.
The first shark I ever saw was a nurse shark living in a 90,000-gallon Caribbean reef exhibition at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. I was about five years old and to this day distinctly remember standing there in awe watching a diver in the habitat feed the sharks. I also recall being quite dumbfounded and more than a bit annoyed by the lady next to me pointing at the shark and screeching in fear, while her daughter, who was probably the same age as I was, mimicked her reaction. I didn’t understand what could possibly be so scary about this calm, beautiful nurse shark.
Sixteen years later in Cozumel, while on my first dive trip, I saw my first shark in the wild, which as fate would have it, was a nurse shark. Seeing her glide through the water next to me was exhilarating, and I still couldn’t imagine anyone being frightened of such a beautiful animal. From that moment forward I was hooked on sharks. I saw more nurse sharks in Bonaire, then white tip reef sharks and whale sharks in the Philippines, and then went on a cage diving trip to Guadalupe Island to see great whites. I then had the extremely good fortune of meeting Christina Zenato in 2011 at a dive show where she generously offered to introduce me to her wonderful Caribbean reef sharks in the Bahamas. That experience was life-changing for me and was all the confirmation I needed to push forward on the ocean conservation path I was beginning to seriously carve out for myself.
I started writing for Ocean Geographic a couple of years later, and have since had the privilege of working to protect sharks through a variety of mediums all around the world. From writing articles about the plight of sharks and documenting shark tagging initiatives on research expeditions, to giving public presentations about the value of elasmobranchs and participating in underwater photoshoots designed to dispel myths about these cartilaginous sea creatures, I take every opportunity possible to spread the message of conservation.
As Dr. Sylvia Earle says: “Sharks are beautiful animals, and if you’re lucky enough to see lots of them, that means that you’re in a healthy ocean. You should be afraid if you are in the ocean and don’t see sharks.” I still flood my mask nearly every time I see sharks underwater due to the uncontrollable smiling they elicit in me, and I can only hope to instill that same joy in others by leading through example with my writing, photography, and presentations. If we can replace fear with knowledge, fiction with fact, and apathy with compassion, we have a chance to reimagine a world where sharks are no longer shunned, but are instead appreciated for their beauty and valued for their ecological importance.