Photo Credit: Matthew D Potenski
I have always loved the water and the beaches. As a child on Miami Beach, I began my interest in marine biology by collecting shells and lurking at the sport fishing docks from the age of seven. As I grew up I spent most of my days in or on the water, teaching myself to SCUBA dive at age 13. In 1952 I began a 10 year run at competition swimming and springboard diving as my major high school and university sport.
In my junior year at college, while spear fishing I was menaced by a huge hammerhead shark. I was absolutely terrified and awed as the giant fish was beautiful, magnificent and was circling me! When he did not actually kill and consume me, I knew that I wanted to learn more about these creatures so right then and there I began my lifetime work on these splendid creatures!
Upon entering graduate school at University of Miami I decided to study the lemon shark because they were available locally and were able to survive rather well in captivity. I spent my early career-years in the laboratory studying their behavior and sensory physiology (vision, olfaction and hearing). But, soon I was spending so much time in the lab that I felt I was losing my focus on the animal itself. So I decided to change careers and to go directly into the sea with lemon sharks. Over the decade of the 80s I went to the Bahamas and Bimini in big, modern research vessels courtesy of the National Science Foundation. We basically went in search of the lemon shark and its mysteries.
During the period (1976-1990), I had been in a battle to the death with cancer called malignant lymphoma. It appears that I won, and getting a new lease on life I decided to forgo the research vessels and open my own field station on Bimini to conduct shark research on my own time. I thought I wouldn't have to beg for grants or funding if I could just get barely enough funds to run the station. But, eventually at the urging of the RSMAS dean I managed to receive grants from the Office of Naval Research National Science Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation National Sea Grant and the Florida State Department of Education! However the events of 9/11 overtook our funding so that today we rely heavily on generous patrons and philanthropic private donors. Thanks to these altruistic donors as well as our loyal volunteers and capable staff we are able to keep the Shark Lab afloat and provide a research environment for the worthy graduate students who train and study the endangered lemon sharks in the clear waters of the Bahamas.
Dr. Gruber hails originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., grew up in south Florida. He entered college in 1956, studying first at Emory University and then earning his B.S. in Zoology from the University of Miami (FL). He followed up in quick succession with his M.S. and Ph.D. in Marine Science from the then called the Institute of Marine and Atmospheric Science--again at the University of Miami. He has held several positions at the University of Miami and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Max-Planck Institute for Behavioral Physiology, Seewiesen, Germany where he was a behavioral researcher under Nobel Laureate Professor Dr. Konrad Lorenz.
Doc Gruber conducted field studies at marine stations at Eilat, Israel, Hurghada, Egypt and Okinawa, Japan. His position was Tenured Full Professor at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS), University of Miami; he also serves as Adjunct Professor of Biology with the University of North Carolina (Wilmington) and is founder and director of the Bimini Biological Field Station, Bimini, Bahamas. Dr. Gruber was council member of the Bahamas National Trust and board member of the University of Southern Mississippi's College of Marine Science.