Sharks Educational Institute - passion for shark awareness learning

The Sharks Educational Institute is an international non-governmental organization dedicated to the education for the marine conservation, founded by Fernando Reis in 2016.

Our principal focus of work is the development of the issues related to the marine environmental education of the youngers and their active participation in the conservation of the sharks' species in their natural habitats.

Our vision is to enhance the public general knowledge of the marine life balance, based on sharks' conservation, all through our stakeholders' influences and involvement.

Our mission is to create new educational events geared towards a better knowledge of the marine life balance supported on sharks.

The Values of the Sharks Educational Institute are: Respect - Collaboration - Passion - Creativity - Teaching.

RESPECT is for caring - We care for others, for the planet, its nature, and for all oceans life forms.

COLLABORATION is for doing - When we do things together, studying, learning and helping becomes more effective.

PASSION is for protecting - We protect what we love.

CREATIVITY is for dreaming - We dream of educating our children to live in a better world.

TEACHING is for sharing - When we share what we have learned, the notion of knowledge takes on real meaning.

Thus, we wish to promote creative educational events for a better environmental marine awareness of everybody, through the cooperation with other organisations and their stakeholders, based on an active participation of all the public involved.

Why sharks with Pascal Gospodinov?

Pascal's studies were initially focused on zoology and behavioral research, but soon specialization was devoted to shark-human interaction and accident research. In 1995, he was able to observe a black tip reef shark snorkeling in front of Isla Margarita (Venezuela). This encounter was the game changer. The encounter moved and shaped him and differed strikingly from the prevailing academic teaching. Alone Erich Ritter's research results coincided with his own experience he got during that amazing encounter, and so the two paths crossed.

In 2003 Pascal Gospodinov joined the SERC (Shark Education and Research Center) studying the effects of biotic and abiotic factors on the swim-dynamic of Caribbean Reef Sharks (C. perezi), with Dr. Erich Ritter as a mentor. A major part of his work took place in the field and one thing that should be said here is that his work was characterized as non-invasive research in naturalistic settings. 

After receiving his master’s degree (Diploma) from the University of Mainz in 2006 he began to work as a tour guide and "communication trainer" for shark-human interaction in Dr. Erich Ritters SharkSchool(TM). Pascal was an integral part of the SERC and SharkSchool(TM) in Grand Cay, Bahamas, not just as a trainer but also as a project leader for different research endeavors undertaken at SERC. Like others on that team, his focus revolved around shark-human interaction and accident research. Since 2003 Pascal has been working with Dr. Erich Ritter and still supervises some SharkSchool(TM) workshops all around the world.

At the SERC, Pascal was not only a scientist, an exam assistant, a test person, a lecturer, a behavior researcher and a tutor of German-speaking graduate students. He also works "by the way" on his doctoral thesis, still with Erich as a mentor. He investigates the extent to which human stress (psychological or physical) influences the buzzing behavior of bull sharks and lemon sharks. The project name is "Bullshark Reaction on Human Stress (BURST)". Supervisor for the area 'Human Stress' is the neurologist Dr. Kai Lutz of the University of Zurich. The northern Abacos are Pascal's preferred research area, but he dove with sharks all around the world like; South Africa, the Red Sea, Islas Revillagegidos, the Azores, Mexico, the Caribbean, La Réunion just to name some of the areas.

In addition to all (shark) science, the human component of shark-(hu)man relationships is also Pascal's interest. For his students or workshop participants, this means that you can look forward to an entertaining course by a friendly coach. Pascal's open temperament and his accessible nature are certainly due to his internationality; He is quadrilingual (German, French, Spanish, English) and has conversational Portuguese.

A couple of years ago Pascal and Fernando met, of course talking about sharks and accidents. After having had some fruitful conversations they decided to cooperate. Pascal Gospodinov is nowadays the Shark Behaviourist Director of the Sharks Educational Institute and as well of course one of our Shark Diving Advisers.

Why sharks with Fernando Reis?

Fernando Reis is a conservationist, environmentalist, shark expert, specialized in shark diving training and in shark advocation, founder and Executive Director of the Sharks Educational Institute.

Master Business Administrator in Marketing, Mathematics and Drawing and Painting teacher, he becomes a diver since the earlier 80's. Nowadays, Fernando Reis is an economist teacher, a trainer, a painter, as well as a shark diver and a shark advocate. 

In the 90's he has started to dive with sharks all around the world and become a Divemaster and a White Shark Awareness Diver. Today he is a Sharks' Diver guide and trainer, as well as a board member and founder of the Sharks Atlantic Platform.

As an independent shark researcher, he has already collaborated with several associations like APECE in Portugal, Pro-Squalus in Brazil, Shark Alliance, and other international NGOs. In the Canary Islands, Spain, where he lives, he has found the Canary Islands Shark Alliance. 

Environmental conservationist from his academic training and personal development, Fernando Reis has been invited by several times as speaker at international conferences and seminars about the importance of sharks in the media marine environments and their contribution to a healthy biodiversity.

As a conservationist and environmentalist, he has been promoting conservation shark habitats projects for more than a decade. He has been Marketing Manager Director in 2006 for the Exposub Portugal, a Diving Show in Portugal, and from 2007 he is a founding member of the Portuguese Commission 'Protection of Sharks in Portugal'.

Since 2013 till March 2017, and as a founding member, he was the coordinator, and President of the Spanish Association Alianza por los Tiburones de Canarias (Canary Islands Shark Alliance). Since 2015 he was also a member of the Steering Committee of the Sharks Atlantic Platform. Since then, he is the coordinator, innovation designer and Key Note Speaker for the shark educational training on these NGOs.

Also as a marine conservationist and an environmental expert, with the Sharks Educational Institute, he has been developing several educational activities for different publics, dedicated to the marine and shark conscientiousness at a global level and he is our Shark Diving Chief Instructor Trainer.

Oriented for a better knowledge of all the marine life balance, Fernando dedicates a part of his life to sharing and to teach his skills on creative educational events, publications, multidisciplinary' exhibitions, film festivals, conferences, workshops, and lectures. Also since 2014, he is the director of the Canary Islands International Underwater Film Festival.

As executive director of the Sharks Educational Institute, Fernando Reis assures the long-range of the Institute's strategy through the development of new educative proposals with the stakeholders and partners of the organization, based on the best working knowledge of the most significant developments and achievements in the field of shark awareness and marine conservation. He designs, develops and implements the most customer-oriented plans for the different activities the Sharks Educational Institute realizes together with its partners into their public events, and he is one of the Sharks Institute's instructor-trainers for the shark diving workshops and courses.

Why sharks with Kathleen Russell?

Born in Hong Kong, Kathleen Russell grew up in Vancouver, Canada. At a very young age, she become a Junior National swimmer with a deep love for the sea. As she was growing up she worked as a lifeguard and Swim instructor for the Vancouver Parks Board.

After she graduated from University of British Columbia B Sc. in Agricultural Science, Kathleen traveled to Hong Kong where she learned to scuba dive in 1995. One year latter, she became a PADI instructor and started her activities in the Diving business working with Pro Dive Sino-USA in Hong Kong.

Working with the Diving community on conservation of Marine Parks, like Hoi Ha Wan, on the installation of artificial reefs, and on the organization of Underwater Cleanups, Kathleen become a Shark Advocate against shark fin soup and attended her first Press Conference of Reef Check in 1997. The following years she went to San Diego to dive with Blue Sharks, and to Donsol, Philippines, where she has been involved in a Whale Sharks monitoring program.

In 2001 as she moved to Abu Dhabi, UAE, Kathleen became a committee member for the EDA (Emirates Diving Association). From then on, Kathleen helped consistently with many EDA Annual Underwater and Beach Clean Ups and on many other marine conservation initiatives in the Region.

In 2010, Kathleen Russell started the Al Mahara Diving Center in Abu Dhabi, and one year later she became a PADI Course Director. Since 2012, she taught the PADI Shark Conservation Program and she organised school talks about Marine Conservation based on her personal knowledge and experience on Sharks, Marine Life and Dugong conservation in Abu Dhabi. One year later, Kathleen started Reef Check in Abu Dhabi, in 2013, she helped to organise the World Record breaking Underwater Cleanup in Abu Dhabi, with the ADMA/EAD/ADPA organizations.

In the past few years, Kathleen Russell worked with 'Eyes on Earth Blue Carbon' project. She has attended various Dugong Conservation and Coral Reef Conservation Symposiums. She has been inspired by Celine Cousteau, Fabian Cousteau, Pierre-Yves Cousteau and Dr Jane Goodall whom have all visited Abu Dhabi and local shark expert Dr Rima Jabado.

As an enthusiastic youth environmental educator, Kathleen became a Boy Scouts of America Den Leader for Cub Scouts, worked on MOCCE and Delma Marine artificial caves program and developed youth programs for outdoor adventure with a focus on marine and outdoor skills. Additionally she has conducted youth workshops on how to make an underwater ROV (remote operating vehicle) and have taught many school age youths to scuba dive.

Since January 2018, Kathleen Russell has worked with the Sharks Educational Institute to organise Shark Talks at schools and Bamboo Shark Diving Workshops in Abu Dhabi. In the future, she looks forward to establish a shark monitoring community in the Abu Dhabi region and to develop new shark and marine conservation initiatives working with the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi.

Together with the youth outdoor development programs/workshops Kathleen aims to continue with the Reef Check Eco Diver training, the Project Aware Coral Reef monitoring, and the Shark Conservation and Whale Shark Awareness Programs. With her wealth of experience and passion for the ocean and community, Kathleen Russell integrates the Sharks Educational Institute's Board as our Representative in the UAE.

Why sharks' underwater photography with Peter Mainka?

Born in Germany, Peter Mainka is an Electronic Engineer that started with photography as a hobby in the Technical College Workshops. As an avid amateur photographer, there have been several attempts to take pictures under water.

Arrived in UAE in 2001 as a happy Advanced Open Water Diver. Only this very year he got his first real underwater camera from Sea & Sea for Color slide. Thereafter, he experienced a lot of differences from the surface photography, to the point that some of his underwater color slides have been later digitized and are still shown today.

In parallel, Peter has advanced in diving up to PADI Master Instructor, reluctantly giving up from the analogue photography and changing to digital compact cameras with proper housings and strobes.

But finally, a few years ago, he got a proper housing (Subal with several ports) for the Nikon D300 and some powerful strobes (Hartenberger), and the results have improved with growing experience while diving all over the world, when on vacation from his real job as an Electronic Engineering Consultant.

In the beginning of 2018, and with his experience on Shark Diving Workshops, Peter Mainka becomes officially one of ours Sharks Educational Institute's Underwater Shark Photographers.

Why sharks' education with Patrícia Mega?

Patrícia is a Portuguese marine biologist, shark conservationist and educator.

It was during her volunteer stint at the Bimini Sharklab that she experienced her first shark encounter and ignited her passion for sharks. During her stay in Bimini, Bahamas, she helped some projects such as shark’s social behaviour and have done some field work like tagging and tracking sharks.

After that she decided to start her master degree in marine ecology. Now, she has got a PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certification, she loves being in the ocean and she has done some beach and dive cleanups. For all those reasons, she loves to spread ocean education teaching how to use less plastic and be more sustainable.

She has also done several activities with the younger ones about marine conservation, sharks’ awareness and protection of the sea, throughout her career development.

In resume, Patrícia absolutely loves sharks and teaching all about them, which grounds she become one of the Sharks Educational Institute's members. As our Sharks Educational Institute Delegate, Patrícia is responsible for education and awareness events, and oriented to develop new conservationist and educational initiatives in Portugal.

Why sharks' conservation with Seisho So?

Seisho So was born in Japan, where the ocean shaped his impressions and interests. He was fascinated by the study of living things from an early age. When he was watching a shark documentary with a fossil shark tooth on his hand, he saw the true greatness of sharks. Ever since that moment, his hunger for learning about sharks has only grown stronger. Three years of study at school in the U.S. has given him a strong command of English and provided him with the opportunity to study field biology in Montana, and in Costa Rica. 

Seisho first experienced scuba diving in 2017, and being currently a certified Advanced Open Water Diver, he plans to become an expert scuba diver and free diver. Seisho has already studied many shark species, such as the Portuguese Dogfish and Shortfin Mako Sharks, as well as shark relatives like stingrays and chimaeras. While in high school, he completed an independent shark dissection to study their anatomy.

He saw his first sharks in the open ocean, in Hawaii. And after that he has also scuba dived with Banded Houndsharks and Red Stingrays in Japan. One of his favourite experiences so far has been observing Great White Sharks at Guadalupe Island, Mexico. He was stunned during his close encounters with White Sharks and that has given him even more motivation to continue his study and to improve his techniques at underwater photography and filming.

Due to his strong motivation for marine life conservation, Seisho has become our Sharks Educational Institute Correspondent in Japan since July 2018, where he's currently conducting some surveys about ocean knowledge around Tokyo, and from where he can make connections with other national shark advocates and ocean conservationist volunteers.

Why sharks' educational events with Núrya Inocentes?

Núrya Inocentes was born in Portugal, where its deep blue sea has always fascinated her. While doing her BSc in Biology, she then realized the beauty of elasmobranchs – and since then, her thirst for knowledge about these fantastic creatures has only grown. 

In 2013 Núrya graduated with a specialization in Marine Biology by the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon, and became a MSc in Marine Biology by the University of Aveiro in 2016. 

It was also in 2013 when she first experienced the wonders of Scuba Diving, being now an Advanced Open Water Diver she looks forward to improve her training as an expert scuba diver. She also has a Skipper’s License, which allowed her already to work in an ecotourism business company in the Algarve for one year. While she did not directly work with sharks, it was there where she had her first encounter with a shark on its natural environment, a Hammerhead.

Since March 2018, Núrya joined the SEI's international team as a member in order to lend her voice to sharks, these wonderful creatures that cannot speak for themselves. 

Nowadays, she is one of our shark advocates and, as she likes to spend her time raising awareness about all things ocean, namely the dangers of plastic pollution, and the needs of shark conservation, we are also happy to count with Núrya as a Sharks Educational Institute Correspondent in Portugal.

Why sharks with Chris Bridge?

Chris qualified as a PADI Open Water Diver in the freezing cold waters of the United Kingdom, North Wales to be precise, and since then has barely been able to keep himself dry. His eagerness to keep on progressing in the diving world gained him his first volunteer position assessing the impacts of mooring scars on the beaches along the Lyn peninsula for Countryside Council for Wales. His eyes were opened from this work to the impact that humans are having upon the marine ecosystem. He was lucky enough to then become a part of teams conducting invasive species management in marinas and also working with governing bodies, assessing the capabilities of other scientific divers before the survey season and research began. All this as well as diving for fun and earning his PADI Master Scuba Trainer.

Having studied at Bangor university earning a Bachelors degree in Sport Science, Chris found that his lack of a marine/conservation science background made it difficult to progress in his career in the field. So he packed up and flew half way around the world to work in Fiji, on a marine research base on the tiny island of Caqalai as a Dive Officer. This was the perfect location to educate himself further in the field of marine biology, as most of his time was spent surveying, or teaching others how to survey. Not to mention the perks of diving in crystal clear waters with Whitetip Reef Sharks and some occasional Humpback whales. While in Fiji, Chris visited the shark hottest spots, such as Beqa Lagoon to dive with Bull Sharks, Sicklefin Lemon, Silvertip Sharks, Grey Reef and Whitetip Reef Sharks; and Savusavu to dive with schooling Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks.

Chris Bridge believes that he can use his courses to educate and convince people that they can really make a difference to the marine world, if even just by spreading the message and taking part in clean-ups. He works now in the UAE, on the East coast, as a Diving Instructor, and with his large experience he is one of our Shark Diving Advisers in the Arabian Seas Region.

Why sharks with Kayleigh Hyslop?

Kayleigh was born and raised in United Kingdom. Thanks to her amazing parents, since a young age she was able to travel and see the world. At the age of 12 Kayleigh went diving for the first time, evidently sparking her devotion for the ocean.

In 2013 Kayleigh graduated from Plymouth University with a BSc Hons Degree in Conservation Biology. Her dissertation studying the impact of by-batch from long line fishing, highlighted the issues facing shark populations worldwide. Soon after graduating she headed to Utila, Honduras, to start her career in the diving industry.

Now a Master Scuba Diver Trainer for PADI, she is working her way around the world trying to make a difference through education. In 2017, Kayleigh ventured to South Africa and was fortunate to dive with Blacktips, Hammerheads, Bull Sharks, Whitetips and Whale Sharks. 

Also in 2017, Kayleigh started her blog ‘Follow The White Fin’ for people to follow her travels and adventures and to share her passion for all marine life with the world.

Kayleigh believes that the scuba diving community is the key to sharks survival, therefore she uses her job to educate all her students in the importance of the ocean and its inhabitants. Those are all reasons why she become one of our Shark Diving Advisers.

Why marine environment with Adam Evans?

Currently based in York, England, Adam has been Diving since he was 16. His introduction to ocean conservation came in Barbados in 2015, where he worked with Barbados Blue in saving coral reefs from invasive lion fish species. With no natural predators in this environment, the alien species were growing fast in number, consuming a threatening amount of smaller fish. The aim of the project was to encourage skeptical locals to choose to eat lion fish over other fish, to reduce their dominance over the reef.

After getting a taste of what lies below the surface, in 2016 Adam lived out his dream of completing his SSI Divemaster and Dive Control Specialist training. Using this he was able to take clients to dive with black tip reef sharks daily in Thailand. He took this as an opportunity to show people the excitement of finding sharks on a dive and help break irrational fears of sharks that clients may have. Here he was also able to get involved in conservation projects such as waste clean-up dives around the pier and Trash Hero Thailand, a project aimed at reducing plastic waste, focusing on cutting down on the use of plastic bottles. 

Adam is an Ocean Quest/Sea Shepard Coral Propagation Diver, using these skills in Thailand to build a coral nursery, made using coral fragments recovered from dying coral. This coral is taken from heavily accessed dive sites to more remote locations where the coral can recover and grow into a new healthy reef. A method which may prove key in recovering dying coral reefs.

Adam then received training from scientist and shark specialist Pascal Gospodinov after becoming a shark diver in the Azores. Here he was able to expand his knowledge and experience with pelagic sharks and learn key skills in observing shark behaviour, as well as shark-human interaction.

Through his diving experience and scientific knowledge through his Chemistry undergraduate degree, Adam is keen to dive with purpose and help educate people on sharks and the intricate ecosystem of the ocean. Adam is currently studying for his master’s degree in Marine Environmental Management at the University of York and hopes to use this as a platform to help protect sharks and rejuvenate the health of our ocean. 

In 2017 Adam moved to Indonesia to work with Gili Shark Conservation completing fish identification training and becoming a PADI AWARE Shark Conservation Diver. Adam gathered important data as a research diver to be put forward to argue for a marine park around all Gili islands, as well as getting involved in beach clean-up operations to help raise awareness of the huge amount of plastic waste in the area. 

Marine protected areas and waste management are crucial to preserving valuable and fragile shark populations, as well as all endangered marine life. It is for these reasons Adam has become one of our Marine Environmental Advisers here at Sharks Educational Institute.

Why sharks with Grace TSP?

Sharks have more than 400 million years of evolution, first humans less than one million, and Grace’s passion for sharks stems from her curiosity in answering the question: what can we learn from these incredible creatures that pre-date even the dinosaurs?

Having experienced her first shark encounter back in 2012, Grace’s love for shark conservation and research has snowballed ever since and has taken her around the globe from volunteering as a shark research diver in Indonesia to working as a shark guide in the Azores. 

Currently studying for her MSc in Marine Environmental Management at the University of York, Grace longs to help further Elasmobranch studies, particularly that relating to shark behavior as well as educating future generations about Sharks and their relatives. It was this particular interest in Shark Behavior that brought Grace and shark behavior specialist, Pascal Gospodinov together on Pico Island in the Azores where Grace partook In Shark School workshops focusing on shark-human interaction. This in turn, gave grace the knowledge to understand and interact with a number of large pelagic species such as Blue sharks and their infamous friends the Mako shark. 

From the Grey Reef Sharks of the Maldives to Thailand’s Black Tips to Australia’s Spotted Ragged-Tooth sharks, Grace has an array of experience diving with different shark species from her travels. During a 5-month period in Thailand in 2016-2017, Grace undertook Sea Shepard’s ‘Coral Propagation Course’ enabling her to aid the planting of an entirely new coral nursery off the coast of Koh Phi Phi commenting that “Saving and restoring shark populations includes protecting the entire ecosystem in which they long to flourish…all the way down to the polyps that make up a coral reef”.

Following this experience, Grace moved to Gili Air in Indonesia to assist the Gili Shark Conservation organization in collecting data on local shark species as well as indicator species with the ultimate goal of forming a scientific basis to bequeath the whole of the Gili Islands with MPA (Marine Protected Area) status. As an SSI Assistant Scuba-Diving Instructor and PADI AWARE Shark Conservation Diver, Grace longs to continue to utilize and combine her passion for diving and sharks to not only conserve sharks and further research into their still largely mysterious existence but also to educate the public on what we already know and have already learnt from these incredible creatures.

Grace has a particular interest in changing how the media presents sharks and hopes that with education, the general public will start to receive unbiased and informed information on sharks rather than the sensationalist and scaremongering tactics present in current media outlets. It was this desire and drive that facilitated Grace to become one of our Shark Diving Advisers.

Why sharks' education with Manuela Domingues?

Living in the Canary Islands, Spain, Manuela is a Portuguese shark diver and conservationist born in Oporto, Image Officer and Advisory Board member of the Sharks Educational Institute.

She is an expert in sustainable alternatives for better practices of underwater shark tourism, graduated in Administration in Oporto with a large experience in customs clearance agency management, and as well as an artisanal plastic artist and a PADI certified Rescue Diver.

Being since a long-time an experienced scuba diver and an international recognized underwater photographer, Manuela began to dive with sharks in 2008. Since then, she decided to dedicate a part of her time to promote shark conservation through the education for the protection and preservation of all the marine environment, mostly oriented for the most youngers.

Between 2007 and 2012, she was a member of the Portuguese Commission'Protection of Sharks in Portugal', where she developed several initiatives integrated in the European Shark Week. 

Between October 2013 and March 2017, and as one of its co-founders, she was the Secretary of the Spanish Association Alianza por los Tiburones de Canarias (Canary Islands Shark Alliance). 

Since 2016, and integrating the Sharks Educational Institute, she started to develop new conservationist initiatives for different stakeholders, and become our Image Officer and Advisory Board member.

Why Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) relationships with Hugo Domingues?

Hugo has an academic training based on a Management Degree from the Oporto Business School. Together with his experience in customer care, this has allowed to develop a leading career in high-tech Renewable Energies, being actually Business Director for the Middle East Market on Thermodynamic Solar Energy with a special concern with the natural and marine environment.

Along his more than 16 years of experience leading successful hi-tech retailing initiatives, together with a special ability to listen to his interlocutors, Hugo Domingues has become a strategic consultant that always offers our stakeholders and partners ample reasons to get into interesting win-win educational proposals. 

Living in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with this experience and environmental orientation, Hugo has become of course our GCC Delegate.

A sea without sharks is a sea without life.