Dr. Eugenie Clark Centennial

Year: 2022

May 4, 2022, marked the centennial of the birth of Dr. Eugenie or “Genie” Clark (1922-2015). Known as the “Shark Lady,” Dr. Clark was an advocate for the conservation of sharks and a critic of the popular image of them as ferocious predators. She was born in New York City to American father Charles Clark and naturalized Japanese American mother Yumico Motomi. After Charles passed away when Genie was 2 years old, Yumico’s brother Walter “Bo” Motomi served as Genie’s father figure. Yumico later remarried Japanese restaurant owner Masatomo Nobu in 1942. Genie was the only pupil of Japanese ancestry at her school in Woodside, Queens, and amused and shocked her classmates with stories of eating seaweed, sea urchins, and fish cakes at home. A visit to the New York Aquarium at Battery Park sparked her interest in marine life at the early age of nine. Dr. Clark received her Ph.D. in zoology at New York University in 1950, and in 1955 founded Cape Haze Marine Laboratory, now known as Mote Marine Laboratory, in Sarasota, Florida. She showed how sharks could be trained to pick out a target based on visual clues, proving them to be intelligent creatures that also play an important role in marine ecology. She dispelled the myth that sharks needed to move constantly to survive by observing sleeping sharks in underwater caves in Mexico and Japan. Her research on the Red Sea Moses sole fish uncovered the first naturally occurring shark repellent. With the support of philanthropists Anne and William H. Vanderbilt, Dr. Clark transformed Mote Marine Laboratory into one of the leading research facilities for the study of marine biology. In 1968, Clark joined the University of Maryland’s Department of Biology, where she served as a faculty member for almost 30 years. Clark led over 200 field research expeditions, 72 submersible dives (up to depths of 12,000 feet), and pioneered the development of scuba gear for underwater research. A tireless advocate of marine literacy, she contributed articles to Science and National Geographic and published two books, Lady with a Spear (1953), and The Lady and the Sharks (1969). She toured the world, speaking to audiences ranging from elementary school students to Japanese Emperor Akihito, who shared Clark’s interest in ichthyology. In 1967, then Crown Prince Akihito invited Clark to meet Crown Princess Michiko and their delegation in Miami. Clark recalled, “when it was nearing midnight, I made a gesture to leave, because some participants, including the Japanese Consul-General, appeared sleepy. The Prince assured me he wasn’t sleepy; on the contrary, he asked if I would teach him to skin dive. When, I asked? He said we could go about 5 a.m. The Consul-General’s mouth as well as his eyes popped open.” They went diving the next morning, and the Crown Prince collected a dozen gobies, which he took back to Japan. Clark continued to conduct deep dives until the year before her death in 2014 at the age of 93.

Added Date: 10/21/2022