By Amy Brticevich, Bachelor of Communications intern student
Griffith University shark researcher Sarah Richmond presents the newest episodes of her documentary series on the much-maligned species at a free screening on Thursday night (September 19) at the Gold Coast.
Following the ethos of “Share the Seas”, the Sarah Shark Project is an independently produced series of six films focusing on the natural history, public perception and conservation of sharks around Australia.
Ms Richmond’s obsession with sharks began at young age, during a childhood spent at the beach.
“I was enticed by the fear people had of sharks more than sharks themselves,” said the researcher working with the Australian Rivers Institute at Griffith.
After witnessing the panic associated with dolphins being mistaken for sharks, she started to question why people were so afraid of them.
“I went home and read everything my dad had on sharks and started to understand and love them.”
The idea for the Sarah Shark Project came about after meeting the series’ director Kieren Curry on a dive trip.
“We wanted to make something different, ” Ms Richmond said. “Something that was liked, but really informative. A lot of documentaries shut out big audiences by skating the middle ground.”
“We decided to put someone in the same frame as the shark, to show people how they interact.”
The team is currently is discussion with a production company in America in the hope of taking their work to a wider audience.
If successful, they could receive funding towards the production of a second season.
“This was never a money making scheme. It’s all about raising issues and awareness and getting that message to more people.”
Throughout the course of filming the Sarah Shark team visited places around Australia, ranging from the Great Barrier Reef, to Byron Bay, to Christmas Island.
“Christmas island is like Jurassic Park. We got to experience what sharks are like in the rawest image.”
A key aspect of the project is its focus on food safety, especially in relation to mercury levels found in shark meat — or ‘flake’ — sold throughout the country.
“It’s important we inform people what they’re eating.”
As for choosing to host the event at Griffith, for the Bachelor of Science (Hons) graduate, the choice was simple.
“I’ve been given lots of support, especially from the School of Environment,” Sarah said. “Coming to Griffith suits where we are and what we’re doing.”
“My job is to make people go ‘ok, I respect that animal’.”
Ms Richmond’s favourite, the grey nurse shark, is a star of episode three to be shown on Thursday.
“The grey nurse is really valuable for its education value. They’re huge and frightening, but are very docile and that goes a long way to changing people’s minds about sharks.”
Episodes 3 and 4 of the Sarah Shark Project will premiere in a free event at Griffith University this Thursday night at 6.30pm in G17, Lecture Theatre 4.