Words by Baylie Fadool
Photos by Baylie Fadool, Wyatt Albert, and Chelle Blais
Nov 28, 2023
Back to research in the Keys and a cohort of new interns! Check out what we have been up to this fall!
Florida Keys Research
Collaborating with other researchers and sharing our knowledge with other students has always been a priority for the Bimini Shark Lab. During our trips to the Florida Keys to conduct research, we make sure that this is always our focus along with the safety of the animals and collecting important information for the advancement of elasmobranch science. For the month of September, we returned to the Florida Keys to do just this!
For the first few days of the research trip, we were joined by Dr. Dean Grubbs and students, Ashley Dawdy and Jess Dehn, from the Florida State University Coastal and Marine Lab. We headed offshore to see if we could catch some bigger sharks and were successful with the capture of a large tiger shark, hammerhead shark, and sandbar shark. We also caught a few Atlantic sharpnose sharks, which are the focal species of Jess Dehn’s Masters’ project research. We had a great few days being able to collaborate with this awesome team of scientists!
Our fall interns were able to join us for the last three weeks of our research trip. This group consists of Lewis Shedden from the UK, Toni Muzzo and Taylor MacDonald from the USA, and Emily Comber from Australia. The beginning of the research trip for the interns always starts with an orientation to get them acclimated to the research equipment and techniques. We head out on the water as early as the next day, once they become familiarized with the boat and boat safety. They gained a numerous amount of experience on this trip, from tagging and collecting samples from ~ 50 sharks, storing the samples, and learning all about the ongoing research at the lab. Masters student and previous Shark Lab intern, Jack Dales, also joined us for the last week of our trip. We were fortunate to have members from Seacamp, a nonprofit focused on ocean education, join us throughout September as well.
After our research trip, our interns were eager to move to Bimini to start the next phase of our internship. We are planning to head back to the Florida Keys for more data collection for some exciting projects and research that we have planned. Stay tuned!
Florida Southern College Course
Florida Southern College joins us for a course during their fall break every year towards the end of October. This course is led by Dr. Gabriel Langford and a rotating faculty member. The faculty member this year was Dr. Allison Durland. The students this year were so enthusiastic and excited, and we had a blast with them! Our station crew member, Wyatt Albert, had the pleasure of coming with this course in 2021 which introduced him to the lab. Many of our station crew end up coming back after their visit with their college course as an intern or long-term crew member.
Even though the week was windy and cold (for The Bahamas!), we did not let it stop us! The students still got to participate in all the regular field activities, such as snorkeling with Caribbean reef sharks, feeding stingrays at Honeymoon Harbor, seeing the SS Sapona shipwreck, and more! They got to hear from our station crew about our ongoing and past scientific research as well. We can’t wait to welcome them back next year!
Virgina School District Teacher Course
To finish up November, a group of 8 teachers from various schools in Virgina joined us for another Teacher and Educator Shark Biology and Conservation Course! These teachers were given this opportunity thanks to a professional development grant awarded to their school district, and they have been able to experience sharks and rays in their various ecosystems around Bimini. The teachers are excited to share their adventures and experiences with their students in educational and informative ways!
Request A Speaker
Doing local outreach is an important part of our mission, but spreading our outreach far and wide also is! Request A Speaker is a virtual opportunity that we provide for one or two of our crew members to speak to your classroom, club, meeting, or organization. We can tailor it to any topic that you would like, and you can choose the date and time that works best for you. During October and November, we have spoken to 8 different classrooms and organizations which span around 100 people. If you are interested in having one of our crew members speak to your classroom, click on the link HERE.
One of the activities our interns were most excited about was assisting with the vet clinic! During a weekend in November, Dr. Valentino Grant from Caves Village Vet in Nassau came to Bimini to help spay and neuter the wild cats on the island. Our interns and crew helped trap cats around the island and bring them back to the lab from Dr. Grant to perform the surgeries. When trapping the cats on the island, we can tell if they have been spayed or neutered before based on if their ear is clipped. Cats that have clipped ears are released and not brought back to the lab because they have already undergone surgery. Our interns got to assist Dr. Grant during these surgeries, a great experience that any of our crew has the opportunity to help with. Thank you so much Dr. Grant for helping control Bimini’s wild cat population!
Ending the year...
Our final course of the year will be with the University of the Bahamas. 11 Bahamian marine science students have been granted a fully cost free Shark and Biology Course at the Bimini Shark Lab thanks to the support of the McZP Foundation. Then, on December 11th, our interns and crew depart for the holidays! We will be closed from December 11th until January 8th, 2024.
We wish everyone a wonderful holiday season and we send our sincere gratitute for all of the support this year!