It’s kind of a love-hate thing with sharks for most of us.
Although “Jaws” is a perennial favorite on scariest film lists and the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” posts record-breaking viewership year after year, our fondness for sharks wanes in open water.
Not, though, for Lauren Benoit. She’d be the one in the water filming them.
Benoit, who has a bachelor’s degree in marine biology and a master’s in oceanography, will spend this year traveling the world, filming sharks with different production companies and internationally known underwater cinematographers. She’s already worked on a “Shark Week” episode to air later this year.
“I will be working on many projects relating to sharks, but in different areas around the world and on different species,” Benoit said. “Many jobs are for the Discovery Channel and also for the BBC and National Geographic.”
Benoit’s fascination with sharks tracks to childhood when her family spent summers traveling by boat to Canada and other destinations. She had her first shark sighting, a Basking shark, filter feeding at the water’s surface, on one of those family trips. After that, she read and watched everything she could about the fish. Now, her fascination is coupled with a deep appreciation for the shark’s function.
“Sharks have been around for over 400 million years, keeping prey and lower populations in check. Due to overfishing, their populations are rapidly declining. I have participated in many shark conservation projects, and there is a difference between a healthy ecosystem with sharks and one that has been fished out,” Benoit said. “Showing people the true side of sharks will help with conservation efforts and show people how important they are in sustaining our oceans.”
Benoit credits her URI experience with providing ample opportunity to pursue her interests. “There are many different experiences that a student in marine biology or another science major can get involved in. URI is a research-based school, and most professors are working on projects where they need help from students,” she said. “It takes a lot of hard work, passion, and sacrifice to get a job in this field. If you take advantage of the research opportunities and different classes at URI, however, you can succeed.”