“‘It is this surreal experience, asking yourself, ‘What are you doing down there, what are you doing with a ten foot animal circling and swimming by you?’” Amir Fogel 09F says of his experience diving with sharks at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk Connecticut.
For his Division III, Fogel made a documentary entitled Niche, about shark conservation, which included the aquarium dive with lemon sharks and sand tiger sharks. The film portrays conservation issues from all perspectives, including shark scholars and the fishermen whose livelihoods are put in peril by stringent laws intended to protect sharks.
“There are a lot of conservation films out there about sharks and the ocean. They’re very good, but they never look at the big picture,” he says. “They never include fishermen. They’re always just about protecting the sharks with no regard for human lives. It’s not as simple as saying ‘Let’s protect these animals.’”
Fogel says the coming years will be “the most influential and life changing for everyone on earth. And a lot of it comes down to what happens with the oceans.” Phytoplankton, microscopic plants in the ocean that Fogel describes as responsible for “turning half of the carbon dioxide on earth into oxygen,” are being depleted as the atmospheric temperature rises, correspondingly raising the temperature of the ocean. This, combined with overfishing and accidental fishing of sharks, puts the oceans, and world at risk of potentially catastrophic changes.
“There needs to be better education about ecosystems, how important ocean ecosystems are, for regulating all life on earth,” Fogel says.
Fogel premiered the documentary on May 2. He plans on submitting the film to festivals after graduating May 18. “It’s not so much about competing in festivals as it is getting people to see the information that’s in the film,” he says. “I want to come up with a solution. Even if it’s not the best one, it will be something to work with.”
For his Div III project, Fogel worked closely with Professor Charlene D’Avanzo, chair of his faculty committee and recipient of the Ecological Society of America’s 2012 Eugene M. Odum Award for excellence in ecological teaching.