Marine scientist leads shark expeditions in drag & performs shows on research boats

Marine scientist leads shark expeditions in drag & performs shows on research boats

A drag queen who loves marine science has found a creative way to combine her two passions through a conservation project called “Drag ‘n Tag.”

Miss Toto’s annual Drag ‘n Tag boat expeditions involve shark-tagging, fundraising, and drag performances. She conceived of the idea with her friend Jake, a scientist, and the Miami marine organization Field School helped make their dream a reality.

 “In the morning, we’ll go out to whatever destination that we’re going to, and it usually is me and two or three other drag performers, drag kings, drag queens, whoever I’m able to ask,” Miss Toto told Attitude. She explained that the team then briefs guests on “the science behind all the research that we’re doing, because the data collection aspect actually is being used for science.”

Then, while waiting for sharks, it’s time for the drag shows. And if it wasn’t enough to combine drag and marine research, the money from the trips also goes to Florida’s Pride Lines organization to benefit LGBTQ+ youth.

Miss Toto hopes her love of the sea can inspire other marginalized folks with similar interests.

“Since I was a kid, I always wanted to be a marine scientist, but I just never saw Black people in this space. And I never saw out queer people in this space. So, I was like, ‘This is not for me.’ But if you can see me and then find something relatable in that hopefully can inspire you to keep pushing in science, keep being loud and being yourself, and being expressive about who you are.”

In an Instagram post celebrating 2023’s Drag ‘n Tag, Miss Toto called it her “favorite event to ever exist.”

Now living in Chicago, Miss Toto can’t go on as many boating expeditions as she wishes she could, but she still dreams of a future in which drag and marine science go hand in hand.

“Maybe one day down the road I will fall back on my science career and my master’s, but my ultimate goal is to be able to do a Steve Irwin-type show with wildlife and sharks, but with me as a drag queen.”

Her goal is to continue to infuse queerness into the space.

“It can be hard for queer people in this field,” Catherine Macdonald, Field School director, told Scientific American last year. “Plenty of them are very quiet about it. We want to create welcoming spaces for visual queerness.”

Miss Toto added, “Marine science, and especially shark science, is a very white male path. So showing that there are people of color, there are women [and] there are queer people is important.”

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