BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Dr. Steve Kessel
Shedd Aquarium, Director of Marine Research
Steve Kessel first came to the Shark Lab in 2002 on an undergraduate placement. Over his placement he conducted a study investigating the links between habitat type and lemon shark prey item abundance. Kessel returned to the Lab in 2005 to conduct his Ph.D research focused on population dynamics. Kessel received his Ph.D. in marine ecology and biology from Cardiff University, UK, in in 2010. Following this he spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow, acting as the principal investigator for the Jupiter Large Coastal Shark Species Study, which investigated the biology and ecology of large coastal shark species residing off the eastern seaboard of the United States. Since then, Kessel has worked for the University of Windsor Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research as the principal investigator of the Lancaster Sound Arctic component of the Ocean Tracking Network. Kessel then studied the movements and migrations of lake sturgeon in the Great Lakes with Michigan State University. He joined Shedd Aquarium’s Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and Research in 2017, where he now oversees a suite of marine conservation research projects aimed at helping to protect important species in The Bahamas, including the endangered Nassau grouper and threatened queen conch. Kessel also leads his own original research project focused on shark and ray species across The Bahamas, including continued collaborative efforts with the BBFSF.
Dr. Bryan Franks
Vice - Chairperson
Jacksonville University, Associate Professor of Marine Science at Jacksonville University
Bryan Franks first arrived at the Shark Lab as a volunteer in November 2002 and went on to conduct his PhD research as a P.I. from 2003-2005. He then served as the Managing Director of the BBFS from 2008-2011 conducting research on lemon, bull, and hammerhead sharks in the Bahamas and Florida.
Moving into academia in 2011, Franks teaches a variety of marine science courses while mentoring undergraduate and graduate research projects. His research lab utilizes a number of field based techniques including acoustic and satellite telemetry, population surveys, etc. to answer questions related to movements, habitat use, predator-prey dynamics, and ecosystem function within elasmobranchs. Recent research highlights include nursery area characterization in the southeastern US and white shark ecology in the western North Atlantic.
Dr. Kevin Feldheim
Chicago Field Museum - A. Watson Armour III Manager of the Pritzker Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and Evolution
Kevin Feldheim first visited the Lab in 1995 and continued to return to Bimini for the annual PIT survey from ’96-‘99. He specializes in population genetics and mating systems of elasmobranchs, and uses genetic markers to examine different life history aspects of elasmobranchs. Feldheim's main involvement with the Shark Lab has been a long-term project examining the mating system of lemon sharks. The Lab has been tagging and sampling sharks in Bimini since 1995, with several thousand individual sharks sampled from nursery sites to this day. With Feldheim's help, we have learned many aspects of the lemon shark’s breeding behavior, for example, many female lemon sharks return on a two-year cycle to Bimini (a behavior known as philopatry) to give birth to their young and will typically mate with more than one male for each one of their litters. We also discovered that female lemon sharks born at Bimini return to this site over a decade later to give birth to their own young. Feldheim continues to collaborate with the Shark Lab for our long-term research goals including: what is the reproductive output of individual sharks over a lifetime? How common is natal homing at Bimini and does it occur elsewhere?
Duncan Brake is a marine biologist and award winning underwater cinematographer who has traveled, photographed and filmed, extensively throughout the world. From fighting bull elephant seals on the frozen Eden of Antarctica to duelling tiger sharks in the crystal blue waters of The Bahamas; Duncan has captured some unique sequences that have appeared on acclaimed programs and documentaries from BBC's 'Blue Planet Live', ' BBC Shark', 'Discovery's Shark Week' through to Animal Planet's 'Whale Wars'.
In addition to filming, Duncan indulges his passion for the oceans as the media director of education, outreach and adventure non profit; Sharks4kids as well as assisting on the board of the world renowned research station; Bimini Shark Lab.
Duncan strives to use cameras and storytelling as valuable tools in capturing the natural world to share its mysteries with future generations to come.
Dr. Dean Grubbs
Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory, Associate Director of Research - Full Research Faculty
Dr. Dean Grubbs is a fish ecologist with interests in the biology of exploited and poorly studied estuarine and marine taxa, primarily sharks and rays. Dean is currently Research Faculty III and the Associate Director of Research at Florida State University’s Coastal and Marine Lab where he mentors graduate and undergraduate students and maintains and active research program on the ecology of deepwater and coastal fishes. He received bachelor’s degrees in Marine Science and Biology from the University of Miami and a doctoral degree in Fisheries Science from the College of William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Dean was a post-doctoral researcher and faculty member at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology before moving to Florida State University in 2007. Dean started working with Dr. Gruber in 1988 and has been associated with the BBFS since before it was a lab and has been teaching marine biology and shark biology courses in Bimini for more than 25 years.
Prof. Aya Gruber
Professor of Law, University of Colorado
Aya Gruber is the daughter of Samuel “Shark Doc” Gruber, founder of the Shark Lab. She came to the lab as a teenager, where she participated in the first juvenile tagging study (PIT study) in 1989-90 and the first subadult tracking project in 1992-93. During summers and between college and law school, Gruber held various positions at the Shark Lab, including assistant manager and boat maintenance assistant. Gruber is currently a professor of law at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She received her B.A. in philosophy summa cum laude from U.C. Berkeley (1992) and her J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School (1997). Her new book is The Feminist War On Crime: The Unexpected Role of Women's Liberation in Mass Incarceration (June 2020). A frequent public speaker on criminal justice, Professor Gruber has appeared in broadcast media, including PBS, NPR, and ABC, and is quoted in outlets including the New Yorker, Slate, and the New York Times. She returns to Bimini frequently with her family. Her daughter Misa kissed her first shark at 18 months old.
Michael's initial field experience with Sharks began in 1995 at the Bimini Biological Field Station in The Bahamas. He then spent the next decade studying the population and ecology of white sharks around Dyer Island in South Africa. In 2002, he founded the White Shark Trust to support research, education and conservation projects focused on white sharks. His genetic, tagging and finprinting studies were integral in discovering a link between South African and Australian white shark populations. This work was a major factor in the decision to list white sharks on CITES in 2004. Michael’s research and conservation efforts have been featured in numerous television documentaries including BBC, National Geographic and Discovery Channel, and publications including Science, Nature, BBC Wildlife Magazine, and Africa Geographic. In 2006, Michael co-authored South Africa’s Great White Sharks (Struik Publishers) with National Geographic photographer, Thomas P. Peschak. Michael taught bilingual high school and IB level Biology, Mathematics and Physics classes in Lausanne, Switzerland, and worked for South African Explorer, Mike Horn on the Pangaea Expedition, assisting Young Explorers worldwide to establish environmental and social projects worldwide. Michael was the Chief Executive Officer of the Save Our Seas Foundation from 2012 to 2019, which allowed him to merge decades of experience in science, conservation and education and his lifelong passion for conserving sharks and the oceans. He published the Save Our Seas magazine, and several books, including the Shark Doc, Shark Lab biography book on Dr Samuel H. Gruber, his mentor and the Bimini Biological Field Station's founder.