What does a species more than 400 million years old have in common with a pair of espadrilles? Not a whole lot -- until TOMS and University of Miami's RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program decided to team up and protect marine life in style and comfort.
Days before the national frenzy over Shark Week, TOMS released its newest design, the Shark Shoe, after more than a year of collaboration between RJD and the popular shoe company.
After participating in Summit Series, where young entrepreneurs come together and discuss ideas to better the world, UM organized a shark research trip for the folks at Summit in order to tackle the issue of marine conservation. On that trip was Blake Mycoskie, founder and head of TOMS.
Dr. Neil Hammershlag, director of the RJD Program, and his team who put together the research trip, approached Mycoskie with the idea for the Shark Shoe.
"As soon as we got back from the trip, we touched base with Blake's people and started to work on the shoe, and the group provided the design and we provided the content," Hammershlag said of the creative process.
The vegan limited edition Classics, which are lined with shark silhouettes, are available for purchase where proceeds from each pair is directed toward preserving shark species and their environment. In addition to this, TOMS "one for one" policy still applies. For every pair of shoes purchased, the company will donate a pair to a child in need.
"My niece is 1 year old and she's been wearing TOMS because they're comfortable and cool. It's not every day as scientists we get to engage in a dialogue with that type of public audience," Hammershlag said.
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The Shark Shoe aims to generate funding and awareness for a species of animal that is fascinating, terrifying, and about which we still have so much more to learn.
"Populations of sharks are declining globally due to destructive overfishing. As top predators, they play an important ecological role in the ocean, and when you remove sharks there can be rippling effects to other community members and have other deleterious effects," Hammershlag said.
You can participate in RJD scientist's research in tracking Hammerhead, Bull, and Tiger sharks in South Florida waters by checking out their satellite-tagged sharks, and learn how you can Adopt a Shark here.