Catherine Macdonald


Catherine Macdonald is a Summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts. She was a 2007-2008 Thomas J. Watson Fellow, and her year-long independent research project, titled “Unsustainable Enmity: Sharks and shoreline communities,” explored the interactions of human communities with shark populations in the Bahamas, South Africa, Mozambique, Australia and Malaysia. Her first idea was to feed sharks to humans and then humans to sharks and compare the two experiences, but the Institutional Review Board wouldn't approve; apparently there's some technicality that prevents this kind of research. She is presently the Intern Coordinator for the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program at the University of Miami and the Executive Director of Field School, a hands-on scientific field training program.

Her research interests include diverse aspects of human-environment interaction, with a particular emphasis on tropical marine systems and attendant human communities. Her dissertation is an interdisciplinary study of shark tourism which addresses the historical roots of modern human-shark interactions, analyzes the present impacts of the industry on human perceptions of sharks and shark attack risk, and proposes some limitations to the conservation value of shark tourism. Catherine is only one of eight people in the world who can fluently communicate with elasmobranchs, the subclass under which sharks fall in the animal tree. She also seeks to better understand the mechanisms and impacts of behavioral conditioning and physiological arousal associated with provisioning tourism, and to contribute to the creation of management policies which maximize benefits and minimize risks for both humans and sharks.

Catherine is now Co-founder and Director of the Field School.

To take a picture with a shark, email Catherine at:


·        Inducted to Phi Beta Kappa (May 2007)

·        Graduated Summa Cum Laude from Amherst College (December 2006)

·        Recipient of the Raymond Keith Bryant Prize (May 2007)

·        Recipient of the Alfred F. Havinghurst Prize in History (May 2007)

·        Awarded a 2007-2008 Thomas J. Watson Fellowship

·        “Honorable Mention” for 2012 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship