Eugenie Clark

Eugenie Clark (May 4, 1922 – February 25, 2015), popularly known as The Shark Lady, was an American ichthyologist known for both her research on shark behavior and her study of fish in the order Tetraodontiformes. Clark was a pioneer in the field of scuba diving for research purposes. In addition to being regarded as an authority in marine biology, Clark was popularly recognized and used her fame to promote marine conservation.

Eugenie Clark
Eugenie Clark in 2014
Native name
Shark Lady
Born(1922-05-04)May 4, 1922
DiedFebruary 25, 2015(2015-02-25) (aged 92)
Alma materHunter College (B.A.)
New York University (M.A.), (Ph.D.)
Spouse(s)Henry Yohinobu Kon (19972000); Igor Klatzo (1970); Chandler Brossard (19671969); Ilias Themistokles Konstantinu (19501967); Jideo Umaki (19421947)
ChildrenHera, Aya, Themistokles, and Nikolas
Scientific career
InstitutionsMote Marine Laboratory
University of Maryland, College Park

Early life and education

Eugenie Clark was born and raised in New York City. Her father, Charles Clark, died when Eugenie was almost two years old, and her mother, Yumico Motomi, later married Japanese restaurant owner Masatomo Nobu.[1]

Clark attended grade school in Woodside, Long Island, and graduated from Bryant High School in Queens, New York.[2] She was the only student of Japanese descent in her schools.[1]

From an early age, Clark was passionate about marine science, with many of her school reports covering topics in marine biology. An initial visit to the New York Aquarium at Battery Park inspired Clark to return to the aquarium every Saturday thereafter, fascinated by marine animals.[3] The work of naturalist William Beebe further inspired Clark to become an oceanographer.[4]

Academic and scientific life

Eugenie Clark received a Bachelor of Arts in zoology from Hunter College (1942). During summers, she studied at the University of Michigan Biological Station, and prior to graduate school she worked for Celanese Corporation as a chemist. Eugenie initially sought to attend graduate school at Columbia University, but her application was rejected out of fear that she would eventually choose to leave her scientific career in order to focus on raising children.[5] Undaunted, Clark went on to earn both a Master of Arts (1946) and Doctorate of Philosophy (1950) from New York University. During her years of graduate study, Clark carried out research at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts, and at the Lerner Marine Laboratory in Bimini.

In 1949, under an Office of Naval Research program to undertake scientific research in Micronesia, Clark carried out fish population studies in Guam, the Marshall Islands, the Palau islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Caroline Islands. After completing doctoral research, Clark received a Fulbright Scholarship to pursue ichthyological studies at the Marine Biological Station in Hurghada, on the northern Red Sea Coast of Egypt. These experiences were discussed in Clark’s first book, Lady with a Spear (1953),[6] the writing of which was supported in part by a Eugenie Saxton Memorial Fellowship and a Breadloaf Writers' Fellowship. The book was a popular success.

Anne and William H. Vanderbilt, fans of Lady with a Spear who owned an estate in southwestern Florida, invited the biologist to speak at a public school in Englewood, Florida, in 1954.[1] After Clark delivered a presentation on Red Sea fish, the attendees revealed that they had encountered many similar animals in local waters and were interested in learning more about them. Subsequently, the Vanderbilts built a lab for Clark in the area. It was named the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory in 1955.[7]

Work at Cape Haze

At the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory, Clark worked with a local fisherman named Beryl Chadwick, who was experienced in catching sharks. Chadwick was Clark's only assistant at the time of the lab's founding. The lab’s first request for shark research came from John H. Hellen, director of the New England Institute for Medical Research.[8] As the laboratory’s activities began to be published in scientific journals, requests from other researchers began to pour into the lab. Researchers from around the world came to study in Cape Haze.[9]

One of the visiting researchers at Cape Haze Laboratory was Sylvia Earle, who was then working on her dissertation research on algae at Duke University. Earle assisted Clark in creating a herbarium by depositing duplicate specimens into the laboratory’s reference collection.[1]

While at Cape Haze, Clark conducted a number of behavioral, reproductive, and anatomical experiments on sharks and other fish. She frequently scuba dived in the local waters, studying various organisms. On these dives, Clark often utilized the glass jar catching technique popularized by Connie Limbaugh, then the Chief Diver at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. These jars allowed Clark to transport unknown specimens back to the lab for further study.[1]

The Cape Haze Laboratory moved to Siesta Key, Florida, in 1960. Scientists continued to visit the laboratory, including chemists from the Dow Chemical Company.

In 1962, Clark participated in Israel South Red Sea Expedition, which set up a camp on one of the Eritrean islands of the Dahlak Archipelago. Her studies focused not only on sharks, but also on other, mainly large pelagic species.

In 1966, Clark left Cape Haze for a faculty position at the City University of New York. In 1968, she became an instructor at the University of Maryland, College Park. While at the University of Maryland, Clark received many accolades, including three fellowships, five scholarships, and six medals. Clark officially retired from the University of Maryland in 1999, but taught one class in the zoology department each semester for several years.

Clark returned to the Cape Haze Laboratory, now renamed the Mote Marine Laboratory, in 2000. She worked there as Senior Scientist, Director Emerita, and Trustee until her death in Sarasota, Florida, of lung cancer on February 25, 2015.[10] Clark was an active researcher and diver throughout her entire life, conducting her last dive in 2014 and publishing its results in January 2015, with additional research still undergoing review at the time of her death.[5]


Clark authored two books, Lady with a Spear (1953) and The Lady and the Sharks (1969), as well as over 175 scientific articles. Clark was an avid supporter of marine conservation and many of her popular publications and public appearances focused on dispelling assumptions about shark behavior and intelligence in an effort to prevent the killing of sharks and encourage the preservation of marine environments. Publications from within this body of work document that she was the first person to train sharks to press targets,[11] as well as the first scientist to develop “test tube” babies in female fish.[12] She also discovered that the Moses sole produces a natural shark repellent, which has since been employed by researchers aiming to prevent harmful interactions between sharks and humans.[2][13] Clark’s observation of numerous “sleeping” sharks during her research dives helped to prove sharks do not need to move in order to breathe.[14][15] Over her decades of research, Clark conducted over 70 submersible dives[2] and led more than 200 field research expeditions around the world. She worked on 24 television specials and helped create the first IMAX film.[16]

Awards and honors

Clark received three honorary D.Sc. degrees from the University of Massachusetts, Long Island University, and the University of Guelph. She has been inducted into both the Florida Women's Hall of Fame[17] and the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame.[18] She was the 1987 recipient in the Science category of a NOGI, which is awarded annually by the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences and is the oldest, and considered to be the most prestigious award in the diving world. Clark has also received accolades from the National Geographic Society, the Explorers Club, the Underwater Society of America, the American Littoral Society, the Women Divers Hall of Fame, and the American Society of Oceanographers. She also has been written about in many books, including The Shark Lady, by Ann McGovern.[19]

Several species of fish have been named in her honor: Callogobius clarki (Goren), Sticharium clarkae (George and Springer), Enneapterygius clarkae (Holleman), Atrobucca geniae (Ben-Tuvia and Trewavas), and Squalus clarkae, also known as Genie’s Dogfish.[20][21]


  1. Clark, Eugenie (1990). The Lady and the Sharks. Peppertree Press. ISBN 978-1936051526.
  2. Mcfadden, Robert D. (2015-02-25). "Eugenie Clark, Scholar of the Life Aquatic, Dies at 92". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-01-08.
  3. "Eugenie Clark, MSA SC 3520-13574". Retrieved 2016-01-08.
  4. Balon, Eugene K. (1994). "An Interview with Eugenie Clark" (PDF). Environmental Biology of Fishes. 41 (1–4): 121. doi:10.1007/bf02197840. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  5. Rutger, Hayley (5 March 2016). "Remembering Mote's "Shark Lady": The Life and Legacy of Dr. Eugenie Clark". Mote Marine Research Laboratory and Aquarium. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  6. Mcfadden, Robert D. (2015-02-25). "Eugenie Clark, Scholar of the Life Aquatic, Dies at 92". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-01-27.
  7. "Eugenie Clark dies at 92; Respected scientist swam with sharks". Retrieved 2016-01-08.
  8. "Eugenie Clark, MSA SC 3520-13574". Retrieved 2016-01-08.
  9. Clark, Eugenie. "Current research at the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory and reports for 1955-1961". Perry W. Gilbert Collection, Mote Marine Laboratory DSpace. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  10. ""Shark Lady" of Mote Passes Away after Nearly 75 Years of Marine Research | News & Press". Retrieved 2016-01-08.
  11. Clark, Eugenie (Jul 1959). "Instrumental Conditioning of Lemon Sharks" (PDF). Science. 130 (3369): 217–218. Bibcode:1959Sci...130..217C. doi:10.1126/science.130.3369.217-a. Retrieved 15 Feb 2016.
  12. Stone, Andrea (25 February 2015). "'Shark Lady' Eugenie Clark, Famed Marine Biologist, Has Died". National Geographic. Retrieved 2016-01-27.
  13. Clark, Eugenie; Gorge, Anita (June 1979). "Toxic soles, Pardachirus marmoratus from the Red Sea and P. pavoninus from Japan, with notes on other species". Environmental Biology of Fishes. 4 (2): 103–123. doi:10.1007/bf00005447.
  14. Eilperin, Juliet (2015-02-26). "Eugenie Clark, 'shark lady' who explored ocean depths, dies at 92". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-01-27.
  15. Clark, Eugenie; Doubilet, David (April 1975). "Into the Lairs of "Sleeping" Sharks". National Geographic Magazine. 147 (4): 152–176. Retrieved 15 Feb 2016.
  16. Duncan, Joyce (2001). Ahead of Their Time: A Biographical Dictionary of Risk-taking Women. Greenwood. ISBN 978-0313316609.
  17. "Members of the Florida Women's Hall of Fame". Florida Commission on the Status of Women. Retrieved 2016-02-15.
  18. "Eugenie Clark, Ph.D." Maryland Women's Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2016-02-15.
  19. "Dr. Eugenie Clark". Mote Marine Laboratory. Retrieved 2016-02-15. including extensive bibliography
  20. "Congressional Record Extensions of Remarks Articles". Retrieved 2016-01-08.
  21. "Newly Discovered Shark Species Honors Female Pioneer | Florida Institute of Technology Press Release". Florida Trend. Retrieved 2018-07-18.

Further reading

  • Balon, E.K., Michael N. Bruton, and David L.G. Noakes (eds.). 1994. An Anthology in Honour of Women Ichthyologists ET, Ro, and Genie. Kluwer Academic Publishers. (Dedicated to Clark)
  • Butts, Ellen & Joyce Schwartz. 2000. Eugenie Clark: Adventures of a Shark Scientist, Linnet Books, Connecticut. (Biography of Clark)
  • Brown, R., and J. Pettifer. 1985. The Nature-Watchers, Collins, London, pp. 17–22 and 37–45.
  • Burgess, Robert F. (1976). "Dive into the Past (Part I)". The Cave Divers. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company. pp. 110–127.
  • Ellis, R. 1976. The Shark Book, Grosset and Dunlap, New York.
  • Emberlin, D. 1977. Contributions of Women in Science, Dillon Press.
  • Facklam, Margery. 1978. Wild Animals, Gentle Women, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
  • Garber, N. 1967. Your Future In Oceanography, Rosen Press, New York.
  • Hauser, H. 1976. Women in Sports, Harvey House, New York.
  • Hauser, H. 1987. Call to Adventure, Bookmaker Guild, Longmont, CA. pp. 137–145.
  • Hauser, H. 1990. The Adventurous Aquanaut, pp. 201–216.
  • Keating, Jess. 2018. "Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean's Most Fearless Scientist", Sourcebooks, Illinois. (Picture book)
  • Kenny, Katherine, and Eleanor Randrup. 2010. Courageous Women of Maryland, Schiffer Publishing, pp. 27–31, 103–104.
  • LaBastille, Ann. 1980. Women and Wilderness, Sierra Club.
  • McGovern, Ann. 1978. Shark Lady, True Adventures of Eugenie Clark, Four Winds Press, New York. (Biography of Clark)
  • McGovern, Ann. 1998. Adventures of the Shark Lady: Eugenie Clark Around the World, Scholastic Book Services, New York. (Biography of Clark)
  • Polking, Kirk. 1999. Oceanographers and Explorers of the Sea, Enslow Publishers.
  • Rappaport, D. 1991. Living Dangerously, Harper & Collins, pp. 71–86.
  • Stone, Andrea. "'Shark Lady' Eugenie Clark, Famed Marine Biologist, Has Died." National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 25 Feb. 2015.
  • Taylor, V. 1979. Great Shark Stories, Harper and Row, New York.
  • Trupp, Phil. 1998. Sea of Dreamers, Fulcrum Publishing, Colorado, pp. 164–187.
  • Yount, Lisa. 1994. Contemporary Women Scientists, Facts on File, New York, pp. 54–71.
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