An Interview With Shark Expert and Photographer Kina Scollay

posted: 06/28/15
by: Jason Hunter Robey
Kina Scollay
Discovery Communications

Kina Scollay is an underwater and topside cameraman who specializes in wildlife - from charismatic megafauna to carefully observed characters of the sea and sky. His intimate footage of great white sharks is used around the world in cutting-edge broadcast productions. He's also a shark researcher with extensive knowledge of great whites and, recently, broadnose sevengill sharks. Kina appears in Shark Week 2015's Sharks of the Shadowlands, premiering Friday, July 10. He's also Discovery's official Shark Finbassador for Sunday, June 28.

Q. Why do you study sharks -- what inspires you?

A: After finding myself inside the jaws of a Great White Shark, I had a lot of questions about these awesome predators. I found that science at the time didn't have the answers. And so began the first research on New Zealand's Great White Sharks.

Q. Why is studying sharks important?

A: I strongly feel that the more we know about sharks, the more we can keep people safe in the water. My buddies are still risking their lives every day as commercial divers in the sharkiest waters on the planet, and everything I find out makes them a little bit safer.

Q. How did you get started as a shark researcher?

A: After surviving the shark attack, I had some strong theories and burning questions. Nobody was studying sharks in New Zealand so I just got on with it. From my first film looking for pack hunting behavior for Shark Week back in 2000, what we've discovered has been endlessly fascinating.

Q. What do you love about your job?

A: I love to work in insanely remote and challenging places. I get to spend half my life in the water with these incredible creatures. It doesn't matter how much you know about sharks they're always going to surprise you -- it's a job where the stakes are high -- you always have to be on the top of your game.

Q. What's your advice for aspiring shark researchers?

A: Get involved in your own back yard. There are sharks everywhere. And if there aren't many where you live, start asking why. As Sylvia Earle said, 'You should be afraid if you are in the ocean and you don't see sharks.'

Q. What's been the highlight of your career so far?

A: It's been the results of the Great White photo ID system I developed with my good buddy, scientist Clinton Duffy. This has allowed us to get to know a whole bunch of New Zealand's massive Great White Sharks by name, and film and study them year after year. I've got to know some of these beasts so well, they're almost part of the family!

Q. What's your favorite species of shark and why?

A: After all these years it's still Great Whites. Hundreds of hours in the water with them and they still terrify me and fascinate me in equal measure. Lately I'm super fascinated with the mysterious Sevengill Sharks that I started to encounter in a really remote corner of New Zealand. These guys were stalking our dive team. It was freaky and I had to know more!

Q. How has new technology shaped shark research in recent years?

A: The rapid advance of tech is one of the most exciting aspects of my job. I'm absolutely inspired by people like my good friend Andy Casagrande -- who uses cutting edge technology to push the boundaries, not only of what we understand about sharks, but how we share that with people through film.

Q. What are some of the top things that researchers still don't know about sharks?

A: There are still so many questions to answer about sharks. It's what keeps me working so hard. The more I learn, the more I realise how much we don't know about these awesome apex predators that are so critical to the health of our oceans.


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