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Name and Title:
Eric Hovland, Associate Curator at The Florida Aquarium and all around Shark Guy!
Did you always want to be a shark expert?
As a kid growing up in the Midwest, my only exposure to sharks was watching Jacques Cousteau on TV. When I got to see sharks at an aquarium for the first time was when I really fell for them. Then when I grew up and started working with sharks hands on, I knew it was the only path for me.
How long have you been at the Aquarium?
I’ve been lucky to be a part of the Florida Aquarium family from the beginning. I helped open the institution in 1995. So over 23 years!
If you didn’t work at the Aquarium what would you be doing?
It’s hard to imagine any other career path for myself, but at one point I did consider the circus. I love unicycling, and I’ve walked on stilts before. There’s something about performing that I love. I get my stage fix, though, sharing positive shark messaging for the Aquarium.
Favorite memory at the Aquarium?
About eight years ago, we had a white tip reef shark that stopped eating. The Aquarium’s vet and I discovered a blockage in the shark’s throat that was preventing it from swallowing. We brought the shark up to a MRI facility in Tampa to get some digital imaging of the problem. To my knowledge, this was the first time someone had imaged a live shark. We were then able to remove the blockage and get the shark back to optimal health. I’m really proud of that one!
What does Shark Week represent to you?
Shark Week inspires many emotions. Folks watch it for the gore, for the exciting shark encounters and to learn about the great diversity of shark species. I like that it gets people talking about sharks. In the 30 years of Shark Week, the perception of sharks has definitely shifted. They are no longer the villain in horror movies but beloved animals (some even have Twitter accounts.) Shark Week is an opportunity to celebrate sharks and demystify them.
Number one thing to tell people if they are afraid of sharks?
Get to know sharks a bit better! Come swim and dive with our sharks at the Aquarium. I have seen countless people go from fear to fascination once they dive in. You forget to be scared when you get in the water and see our sharks, Flip our rescued green sea turtle, and hundreds of fishes.
How are you celebrating Shark Week?
Every week is Shark Week at The Florida Aquarium! We celebrate sharks and sea life every day. And soon, I am visiting Guadalupe Island to dive with great white sharks. It’s definitely on the bucket list for me. I’m ready to feel like I am taping an episode of Shark Week … but living it!