05/12/2011 at 02:05 PM EDT
While her Mad Men
counterparts have to swim in a different kind of shark-infested water, January Jones willingly swims with real sharks in real life.
The expectant actress
has been an advocate for sharks since 2009, when she first joined conservancy group Oceana
to become a shark activist. She has swum with Caribbean reef sharks, and most recently in Belize, with whale sharks, the world's biggest shark.
"I wasn't intimidated so much as in complete and utter awe," Jones told Oceana. "Seeing an animal of that size in the wild is incredible. And then to be able to swim alongside it? It's a feeling that's very hard to put into words. There was a peace that came over me and a feeling of hope and joy that was intoxicating."
Hope is the thing Jones is searching for when it comes to shark populations around the world. While the marine animals have been swimming the oceans for 400 million years, they're now facing extinction due to overfishing and overexploitation.
Jones's activism is, in part, an effort to restore some of these populations and to inform others about sharks' vital importance in nature.
"Without them, things go out of balance," Jones said. "So it's silly to be scared of them. We should be scared for them."Read more about celebrity animal advocates on PEOPLEPets.com:True Blood's Kristin Bauer: Save These Chimps from Research!Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow Cry Out for Wild Horses