sTATION crew

Matt Smukall
President & CEO

At Lab Since: July 2015 - First came to the lab in January 2012 and volunteered over 3 winters during leave from work

From: Florida, USA

Education/Work Experience: PhD student, University of Alaska Fairbanks, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences
BSc University of Florida, Wildlife Ecology and Conservation
Masters University of Florida, Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 
2009 - Florida Keys, Caribbean spiny lobster research project, University of Florida
2009 to 2015 - Fisheries Technician/ Biologist, Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association, Kenai Alaska. Studying salmon populations in South-central Alaska, movement patterns of invasive northern pike, and the impact of pike on native salmonids.

Research Interests: Movement patterns of sharks. In particular the residency time, dispersal patterns, and philopatry of tiger sharks around Bimini. I am also interested in the use of longlines to assess shark populations and how sharks are interacting with the longlines.

Kylie Cerra
Executive Assistant in Fort Lauderdale

At Lab Since: July 2019

From: Florida

Education/Background: Studied marine biology at the University of South Florida and graduated in 2018. Looking to pursue a masters or PhD in the upcoming year.

Reason for Coming: Ive always had a weird draw to the ocean since I’ve been a kid. It’s always been my happy place, and has sparked a inquisitive and conservative nature in me.  Funny enough, I was terrified of sharks as a kid. Movies like Jaws really messed with my head. It wasn’t until watching Rob Stewart’s ‘Shark Water’— when the shark finning/fishing industry was brought to my attention— did my perspective change. I decided to become an advocate of my own, and started swimming with sharks in the wild. Even more so, I wanted to get involved in research, so I changed my initial career path from coral research to shark research and went to learn more about these incredible creatures by studying in South Africa, Dry Tortugas National Park, Miami, Boca, and of course Bimini. I’ve always heard amazing things about the Bimini Shark Lab and wanted to expand my knowledge from the labs professionals, which I was fortunate to do for 3 months before being hired. I’m currently applying to masters programs to pursue higher education and plan to be involved in conservation measures for sharks in some realm as a career.

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Jasmine Nyce
Station Administrator

At Lab Since: October 2020

From: Telford, Pennsylvania


Education/Background: Graduated with a degree in Marine Science from the University of New England in May of 2020. Hoping to pursue a MS and PhD in the near future.


Reason for coming: During my undergraduate education I worked with the Sulikowski Shark & Fish Lab for two summers in the Gulf of Maine. I spearheaded a pilot study using baited remote underwater video surveys (BRUVS). This study was the first of its kind in Maine waters and a paper will be submitted for review in the coming months. During my summers in Maine, I assisted with several other research projects at the Sulikowski Lab. These included ecology and movement of sturgeon, tagging and monitoring of blue and porbeagle sharks, and longlining surveys. I also had the opportunity to travel to Belize for a course where we spent a week snorkelling and observing the various coral species and the ecology of the reefs overall. With my experiences in Maine and abroad, I became extremely interested in shark management and conservation as well as the impact of climate change on the world’s oceans. I hope to expand on my past experiences here at BBFSF and determine the specifics of what type of research I would like to pursue in my future endeavors.

Joey "Danger" "Bowline" Nolan
Research Technician

At Lab Since: January 2021
Volunteer/Intern: Jan-June 2019

From: Lake Zurich, IL

Education/Background: B.S. in marine biology from Spring Hill College in Mobile, AL

Reasons for coming: I have always loved everything involved with animals and nature, and fish in particular. I first came to the Shark Lab in January of 2019 and spent 6 months here as an intern. Before the Shark Lab, I worked with sharks and both freshwater and marine sport fish as an undergraduate volunteer at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab Fisheries Ecology Lab and then a fisheries technician with the Sport Fish Ecology Lab at the Illinois Natural History Survey. After leaving the Shark Lab as an intern, I worked for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on a number of inshore fisheries projects, including juvenile tarpon habitat and sawfish movement studies. I plan to continue building on this experience, hopefully attend graduate school, and become a fisheries/shark scientist to help preserve and learn more about the animals that I love. I am very excited to be back and continue to learn about shark research and conservation from our resident staff and scientists who I respect so much. 

Sophia Emmons
Outreach Coordinator

At Lab Since:  January 2021

Volunteer/intern: June-December 2017


From: Maine, USA



BSc Environmental Studies from Davidson College, 2017

MSc Marine Biology from James Cook University, 2020


Reasons for coming: While sharks will always be a passion of mine, what I love most about marine research is when scientists and community members come together.  BBFSF is one of such places, where its wide-reaching marine network works to connect science to people. I am so excited to be a part of this organization and continue to build community relationships based around shark science and conservation.

Chelle Blais
Fundraising, Media & Outreach

At Lab Since:June 2017


From: Canada


Education/Background: UW Photographer and dive instructor for dive liveaboards and resorts. Shark Lab Media Manager in 2017.


Reasons for coming: After working in the dive industry as a dive instructor for a few years, my interest shifted from teaching diving to capturing images of my favourite thing - Sharks! Sharing the research highlights from the work going on at the Lab has not only taught me so much, but makes me inspired to find new and exciting ways to engage the public and share accurate and valuable findings.

I first came to the Lab as the Media Manager in 2017, and I am now lucky enough to be here in Bimini full time with Matt and Matthew helping out with the ever growing Media and Outreach projects and assisting with whatever I can at the Station. 

David Palfrey
Media Manager

At Lab Since: January 2021


From: Wales


Education/Background: Graduate of Film & Television studies at Aberystwyth University. Apprenticed at the BBC as an assistant editor and additional content creator. Scuba instructor. 


Reasons for coming: After 8 years building up experience as an underwater photographer and videographer I wanted to take a step away from the tourism industry and move more into science communication. 

Since learning to scuba dive whilst at university studying film, it was clear that pursuing a career in these combined fields was the end goal. Having worked in SE Asia, Australia and the South Pacific I’ve been lucky enough to experience some incredible marine encounters, but the goal now is to try use my passion to help inspire to conserve and protect this little blue planet and to help bridge the gap between science and the general public.

Vital Heim
Principal Investigator

At Lab Since: September 2016
Principal Investigator since July 2018

From: Frutigen, Switzerland

Education: 2012 - 2015: BSc in Biology, University of Bern, Switzerland
Thesis title: "Hypoxia in pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor (pNET) cell lines - Influence on the expression of alternately spliced VEGF isoforms"

2017 - 2018: MSc in Animal Biology, University of Basel, Switzerland
Thesis title: "The effects of dive tourism and food provisioning on the behavior and local space use of the great hammerhead shark, Sphyrna mokarran, in Bimini, the Bahamas"

Research interests: I have strong interests in the behavior, predator-prey interactions, migration patterns, spatial dynamics and physiology of sharks and how these factors influence their role in ecosystem functioning.

Current position: PhD student in Zoology at the University of Basel, Switzerland. Principal Investigator at the Bimini Biological Field Station, Bimini, Bahamas. My project investigates fishery interactions and spatial dynamics of scalloped, Sphyrna lewini, and great hammerhead, Sphyrna mokarran, sharks to assess the efficacy of hypothetical time-area closures for a better conservation management.Furthermore, I aim to understand the dynamics of predator-prey interactions and how the absence of a top-consumer affects the mesoconsumers in an ecosystem using S. mokarran and the southern stingray, Hypanus americanus, as a model.

Clemency White 
Principal Investigator

At Lab Since:Volunteer/Intern - April to June 2017;
MSc Project Student - June to September 2018;
Principal Investigator - October 2018 to present

From: Basingstoke, UK

Education/Background: BSc Zoology - University of Bristol, 2016; 
MSc Marine Environmental Management - University of York, 2018

Reasons for coming/Research interests: I volunteered at the lab from April to June 2017, and I was so fascinated by the current research that I returned to complete a project of my own for my MSc thesis. For this project, I used a modelling technique to compile tracking data collected from lemon sharks since the lab began tracking projects in the early 1990s. I used this method to create a detailed baseline of lemon shark habitat use around the Bimini islands across life stages, inferring ontogenetic shift and the impact of anthropogenic development.

My PhD project focuses on my interest in elasmobranch spatial and sensory ecology and considers the role of different sensory modalities in orientation and navigation. I will also consider how navigation is affected by anthropogenic disturbances and how we can mitigate this, in order to inform sound conservation management that can be replicated in other systems.

Vice President & Project Student

Matthew was adopted by the Lab in 2016 and spent almost two years helping (then PI) Matt Smukall with his PhD. Naturally, Matt was smitten with Matthew, and in September 2018 Matthew was fully adopted by Matt and brought to live with him in Orlando. 

Not long after, Matt started his position as Shark Lab CEO, and now Matthew is back in Bimini, living in a comfortable condo with Matt & Chelle, lazing about on his couch and occasionally swinging by the Shark Lab to bask in the attention of the staff and volunteers!