During my time at the Shark Lab I had so many incredible experiences, it would be impossible to name them all. Some highlights included seeing the larger sharks on the scientific longlines and freediving with the hammerheads and nurse sharks, however, one of my favourite activities at the Lab was Stingray Catching
PI Vital’s PhD project involves analysing the dynamics of predator-prey interactions and how the absence of a top-consumer affects the mesoconsumers in an ecosystem, modelled using the great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran) found in Bimini between December and April and the southern stingray (Hypanus americanus) that is in Bimini year-round. In order to take measurement data and samples for DNA and Stable Isotope analysis, first we need to catch the stingrays. This requires excellent teamwork, as they can move so fast!
From the whole team silently entering the water at the same time, to slowly and carefully circling the stingray, to sweeping nets together to catch it, there was such a thrill when we were successful! Once we got the stingray back to the boat, we undertook a quick scientific work up to get all the data required and release it where we found it, and it is an equally great feeling seeing them swim off so majestically.
I know for sure I will never forget the Shark Lab, the amazing memories, the friends I made and the skills I learned during my time there!