At a recent conference, I was engaged in a multiple-day bidding war over an item for sale at the silent auction. The item eventually went for more than three times what my maximum bid was and ended up raising a lot of money for student travel. Still, I was sad to have lost, even though matching the winning bid would have meant not eating for a week or so.
The item was a first edition copy of Eugenie Clark’s classic book ” Lady and the Sharks”, and since Eugenie was there, she volunteered to give a personalized signature to the winner. Close friends know that “the Lady and the Sharks” was very influential in my decision to become a shark biologist, and Eugenie Clark was one of my childhood heroes.
After losing the silent auction, I hung around the room for about 20 minutes trying to work up the courage to talk to Dr. Clark. I told her that I had been trying to win her book, but it had gotten outside of my price range. I also told her about Southern Fried Science, and she took a business card of mine (theoretically to tell a friend whose new shark conservation organization she wanted me to promote).
This morning, I got a package in the mail from Mote Marine Laboratory. I opened it and discovered this inside:
For those of you who can’t read it, it says “To David Shiffman, Good to meet you at AES, all best wishes, Eugenie Clark, 19 July 2010″.
I think I drove a few people at the lab crazy this morning as I ran around showing my new treasure to everyone I could find. It’s no exaggeration to say that this book is now one of my most prized possessions.
I personally witnessed Dr. Clark meet at least 30 grad students for the first time at AES. She and I spoke for maybe 5 minutes. Even if we completely disregard her decades of ground-breaking research, I think that this incident alone makes her a pretty darn impressive person. For the record, she recently turned 88 years old.