Jéssica Escobar-Porras

Hails from: Medellin, Colombia
Currently lives in: Durban, South Africa
Favorite Place: Kauai- Hawaii
Passions: Diving specially night dives. When that fails, then anything outdoor like playing with Tinto (my dog) in tide pools. 
Favorite Shark: Zebra shark - Stegostoma fasciatum

What shark are you most like and why?
Nurse shark - Ginglymostoma cirratum, because like this shark I prefer tropical waters and I am more active at night.  Also very docile and sociable but if provoked I can get grumpy. 

How did sharks draw you into their watery world?
I first was attracted to sharks when I was 11 years old and my mother took me to an aquarium. I was surprise to see hundreds of people surrounding the dolphin pool and right behind us a pool of sharks being ignored. I turned around amazed by their uniqueness and humbling presence. I then started free diving and when i turn 15 got my scuba diving certificate. I have been in the water since then. More than twenty years later I am still amazed by sharks, and every day I am determine to be the voice of these animals that are misunderstood and mostly neglected.

Knowledge will help you care, Caring will make you protect.  If in doubt on how to help our amazing oceans start by learning about them.

Inspire Us!
Always do the best you can with what you have, you never know how you small actions can influence others. 

In 2006 I was part of a research cruise which surveys the ocean floor using trawling nets, a very destructive fishing method. I was in shock to see how many sharks were caught and brought up to the deck still alive. I desperately picked them up and put them back in the water. The crew laugh at me, because it was an endless task. I did this for 20 days on my first cruise. I then decided to be part of every cruise possible so I could rescue as many sharks as I could handle. I did more than 10 cruises in 6 years, some as long as 60 days out at sea at one time. In every cruise more crew joying me in the frenetic race with time to put the sharks back in the water.

In my last cruise, I was amazed to see that the fisherman were all running around putting the sharks back in the water, before I even ask them for help. They were all doing it out of their own initiative!

This year I couldn´t go on the cruise (it happens every January). Some days later into the cruise, I got an email from the crew telling me that they were saving many sharks!

The fisherman that used to laugh at me are now shark savers!

Organizations I support:
SieMma, Escualos, Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund

Short Bio:
Born in the mountains of Colombia, but loved to be in the water before I could walk. When turned 11 years old I met the amazing animals that are sharks and never turned back. I did my free diving course at 12 and scuba at 15. I did my first dive with sharks in Gorgona Island, in the Colombian Pacific Ocean in 1994. That same year had my first job as a dolphin trainer, where I confirmed that wanted to be a marine biologist.

I moved to Hawaii in 1998 where I carried out my studies and worked with Monk seals, turtles and sharks for 5 years. Later in 2006 moved to South Africa to pursue my studies in catsharks population dynamics, and then moved on to sharks conservation genetics for my studies.

I currently live in Durban, South Africa, where I am doing my PhD studies through the University of KwaZulu-Natal, on shark populations. I have set up my own organization for marine studies and conservation in Colombia called SieMma, where I am the Research Coordinator. I hope to work in partnership with my South African counter-parts in the near future. My main interest is the biology and conservation of chondrichthyes worldwide. I am currently doing a revision of shark biodiversity in South Africa and the Indian Ocean. Simultaneously, I am doing my PhD, on genetic population structure of sharks and its relation to their reproductive strategies. 

More about my research project