Currently, I live in sunny southern Florida about three kilometres from the beach. But this wasn’t always the case. I grew up in Toronto, Canada, almost as far from the ocean as you can get – and yet still very close to water. In those days I lived about three kilometres away from Lake Ontario, one of the five Great Lakes of North America. If you haven’t seen the Great Lakes, you are missing out. They have that name for a reason – they are just enormous! The shoreline runs as far as you can see, and when you look out over the water it feels as if you are staring out over the ocean – there’s no chance that your eye will pick out the opposite side. This is how I grew up: next to, in or on the water – swimming, canoeing and sailing – and I loved it. The other thing I remember about growing up next to the water was always being fascinated about what lived in it.
Since my early years were spent next to lakes, I learned mostly about freshwater fishes, like perch and sunfish, but my interest didn’t stop there. My absolute favourites were fish that were much bigger and weren’t found a few kilometres from my doorstep: sharks. I will always remember hunkering down in front of the television to watch documentaries on sharks, and on family vacations I would insist on visiting the local aquariums to get a face-to-face look at these mysterious creatures.
As I grew up, my interest in the water and the life below its surface didn’t fade. After high school I attended the University of Guelph, a great college about an hour from Toronto, where I earned my Bachelor’s degree in marine and freshwater biology and my Master’s in zoology. During this time I studied mostly freshwater fishes – and thoroughly enjoyed it – but it felt as though something was missing. I wanted to learn more about marine life, and about sharks in particular.