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January & February 2023 Update

Words by Baylie Fadool
Photos by Baylie Fadool and Chelle Blais

Feb 28, 2023

We have had an incredibly busy start to the year! After opening back up to the public in 2022 and starting some research and projects in the Florida Keys, we are looking to build upon all of this in 2023. Exciting new projects and opportunities are on the horizon, and we cannot wait to share them all with you. Read below to find out what we have already been up to this year!

January Eckerd College University Course

Eckerd College is located in St. Petersburg, Florida, and brings groups to the Shark Lab 2-3 times a year. We were excited to welcome Eckerd College as our first university course of 2023. Dr. Nancy Smith led this group of first-year students for their winter term study abroad experience. Bringing first-year students on a study abroad experience allows them to determine what they are interested in while still super early in their career. They were one of the most enthusiastic university groups that we have had the pleasure of welcoming to the lab. In addition to thoroughly enjoying all the field activities, they were engaged during presentations and asked lots of questions. They snorkeled with great hammerheads, Caribbean reef sharks, and around the Sapona shipwreck. See some of the highlights from the week below.

February Florida Keys Trip

The crew headed over to the Florida Keys this month to set some block rigs and conduct longline surveys. From tagging data on Bimini sharks, it is observed that some Bimini sharks travel to the Florida Keys and use the habitat over there at various times of the year. Doing work in the Florida Keys allows the Shark Lab to determine overlap between this area and Bimini and what they may be utilizing each area for. Great hammerheads and bull sharks are two species that travel between the Florida Keys and Bimini. The team was able to put a few tags on these species, so this will help assess their space use. Information from these tags paired with the samples that our researchers took from the sharks will help identify exactly what these sharks are using these areas for, whether it be for foraging or reproductive purposes. 

While the team was there, they were able to collaborate with SeaCamp. SeaCamp is an educational, not-for-profit facility designed to educate students aged 10-21 in the marine sciences. We invited each science instructor to come sample with us to gain more hands-on field experience. The team was also able to welcome some familiar faces. Previous interns, current Masters student collaborators, former staff members, donors, and past course students were among some of the volunteers that came to sample with us. We are grateful for all their help. Thank you to Save Our Seas Foundation, Ocean Mokum Foundation, Mercury Marine, CRI Boats, CoExist Projects, and Rock The Ocean who help make all this possible. 

President, Matt Smukall, gave a presentation at the monthly Summerland Key community gathering. He spoke on the diversity of shark species that can be found in the waters, and some of the research that is being conducted in the area. 

Overall, it was a successful trip that we are eager to analyze the results from. We had opportunities to participate in many sampling days due to good weather and pair it with some local outreach. Station Manager and Masters student, Jasmine Nyce, will use the data we gather from the bull sharks for her Masters project. Jack Dales, Masters student and previous Shark Lab intern, will use the samples from lemon sharks for stable isotope analysis. For more information on stable isotopes, follow this link to Read Station Assistant Alina Hussey’s blog about them: Future projects in the works may involve juvenile great hammerhead movements and nurse shark reproduction. 

Upcoming Opportunities

Teacher/Educator Course

We were thrilled to launch our Teacher/Educator scholarship course last year thanks to the support of Save Our Seas Foundation. We are excited to announce that it is back this year for TWO different summer sessions! The courses will take place June 24th - 30th and July 21st - 27th. The course features daily field trips, presentations, and personal encounters with several species of sharks in their natural environment. Scholars will receive daily lectures from experts actively working in the field of shark research, led by Dr. Dean Grubbs, Associate Director of Research at the Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory, and Matt Smukall, President and CEO of the BBFSF.

Our goal for this scholarship is to provide an opportunity specifically to teachers and educators who can take their experience back into the classroom and reach students who may otherwise have no connection to the ocean. We believe that by providing educators with real life encounters and learning experiences in the field, we can help inspire the next generation of marine scientists/educators/conservationists, etc. We hope that by expanding our educational reach to under-resourced and under-represented communities, we can help aid in the diversity and inclusion in the field of marine biology for ALL who are interested.

Inter Scholarships

We are happy to offer scholarships for our internship program as well. Thank you to McPz Foundation for allowing us to provide this opportunity. You can find more information about our internships at this link:

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