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Briefly can you describe the focus of your research and the species you work on?

My research centers broadly on the behavioral ecology and conservation biology of marine predators, with a particular focus on sharks. My current and future research has three core themes: (1) understanding how predator-prey interactions impact individual traits, community structure and ecosystem processes through trophic cascades; (2) evaluating the ecological and evolutionary implications of variation in physiological and morphological adaptations on the movement ecology of marine predators; and (3) examining how coastal urbanization affects the behavior, ecology and fitness of highly mobile fishes. I study a wide variety of sharks including white sharks, bull, lemon, blacktip, nurse, great hammerhead, and tiger sharks.

In your opinion, how can people help save sharks?

  • What can you do to help? Lots! Here is a list to get you started:
  • Educate yourself about shark conservation
  • Educate others
  • Go see sharks, live sharks
  • Eat sustainable seafood
  • Support the creating of marine protected areas and Shark Sanctuaries
  • Encourage and praise restaurants that make the choice not to serve shark fin soup
  • Recycle
  • Limit your use of plastic bags
  • Support reputable shark conservation organizations
  • Support reputable shark research organizations

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How did you get involved in shark research and what advice would you give those interested in studying them?

I spent many years in school and also spent considerable time volunteering for different research labs on a variety of species and topics. It is important to note that ‘shark research’ is not a scientific field. There are many types of shark research areas (many of which never involve seeing a live shark) and it is important to first find out what aspect of science interests you. Ultimately, shark research is about the science and so it is important to care about the science as much as the species. I receive a lot of emails from prospective students telling me how they are passionate about conserving the oceans are interested in a career in shark research. However, passion alone does not mean that a scientific career is the right path. While passion is very important, it is about science which requires thousands of hours analyzing data, writing proposals and generating reports.

Here is my advice to those considering a career in shark research:

First and foremost, determine if you like science and school? Here are some questions to ask yourself in which the answers have to be yes for a career in research:

  • Is math is one of my strengths?
  • Is writing is one of my strengths?
  • Will I enjoy working around the clock, writing proposals, papers and analyzing data?
  • Figure out what aspects of science interests you. For example, ecology, immunology, evolutionary biology, or policy?
  • Obtain a graduate degree in the aspect of shark research that interests you?
  • Volunteer or work with different research organizations (not necessarily shark related) in the area of your scientific interest.
  • Attend scientific conferences such as the American Elasmobranch Society Annual Meeting or Sharks International Meeting to get an idea of what shark research is being conducted. This is a great opportunity to also meet scientists, students and potential employers.

Please provide links to any of your research you would like to showcase.

RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program at Unviersity of Miami

Neil Hammerschlag: Department of Marine Ecosystems and Society