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I was wandering the campus of the University of California Irvine, home of the Anteaters, which say “Zot!” I was looking for a sign directing me back to the arena where commencement was taking place. I had followed the siren call of the campus bookstore after my brother-in-law’s walking tour of the lush and inviting grounds. I promised my sister I could find my way back.

I saw a man in academic robes feeding a parking meter and asked if he could point me in the direction of commencement. He offered to walk me there, which had been my hope. His robe was embroidered with dozens of colorful sea creatures. I cleverly deduced that he was a marine biologist. He said his mother had embroidered “every critter I’ve ever studied” and continues to add more periodically. He’s a professor at UC Irvine and his research specialty is sharks.

As we walked to the arena (a good 10-minute walk during which I was really glad he was escorting me) I discovered that he travels 60,000 miles a year to remote locations to hang out with sharks and other creatures. Usually his wife and 2 1/2 year old daughter come along. He said that his daughter had just learned to swim and that her first solo swimming encounter was in open water off a boat in Belize on a recent trip. She had been feeding anchovies to sharks off the boat and wanted to get in to wash off the anchovies. She asked her dad if the sharks would bite her. He assured her that they would only lick her. Wearing her life jacket, she jumped in and swam with the sharks. I guess he knew what he was doing.

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