Decked Out for the Holiday Season

Saturday, December 4th 2010

Today was exhilarating. Literally. It was freezing. I still wasn’t used to having such crisp winter weather so early in the year. I know, I know… its December, and other parts of the country are inundated in feet of snow by now, but this is South Florida. I felt betrayed. Either way, the sky was near cloudless, the water calm, and this was our last weekend out for the season so our excitement filled in for the lack of typical weather and warmed us better than the sun. Our newest addition to the team, and congratulations to, Christine Shepherd was out with us today and took the pictures exhibited herein this blog. Christine has been working on revamping our website to make it more interactive via virtual expeditions and online webinars, incorporating more visuals for more engaging explanations and learning experiences for those of you that follow us virtually. As a recent graduate from the University of Miami’s School of Communication she will continue to work for the program having proved herself an asset through the exemplary work she has provided over this last season.

We also like to use her as our personal photographer. RJD shark intern photo shoot; we should make this our holiday card… 😉 Click to enlarge.

So, today we were all thrilled, like I said, pumped to make this last weekend of our 2010 season out on the water really count. And we did. Total catch for the day was 4 bull sharks, 4 lemons and 3 blacktips. A perfect day all around; all sharks were healthy and released in great condition. What’s more is that today was our first day working with what has now been dubbed the “Curt-A-Sling,” an improved version of the shark sling we have used before that Captain Curt engineered from a large, plastic, orange construction tube. The sling allows for an even more humane treatment of the sharks rendering obsolete the tail rope and cable to bring them on the boat. To tell you the truth we were all very skeptical to work with the sling as it is quite big and inflexible making its maneuvering around the back of the boat a bit awkward. Quickly, however, we were proven wrong. The sling was incredibly easy to work with, made our jobs of securing the sharks easier and safer, and the release, a breeze. Sorry we ever doubted you Curtie!

Captain Curt guides a lemon shark into the new sling designed to lessen the shark’s stress during the tagging process. Our only suggestion: those purple fun-noodles, attached for flotation, need to be green! Go ‘Canes! Click to enlarge.

Newly tagged 8-foot lemon shark comfortably rests in the sling just before it’s release. Click to enlarge.

Highlight of the day: satellite tag! We put a satellite tag on a 194 cm (total length) bull shark, an exciting task for us as well as for MAST Academy students out with us for the day. An awesome team to work with, MAST students are always involved and interested in the work that we are using the samples for, beyond the day’s experience. One of those students of course is our great highschool intern, Leo, who has been helping us out with a lot of our lab work, which sits across from his school in Key Biscayne. I think Leo was especially happy to be out today, and away from some of the more tedious work he’s been helping us with, Thanks Leo!

Leo helping secure a bull shark while Austin and Curt bolt on a satellite tag. Click to enlarge.

Detail of the SPOT satellite tag attached to the shark fin. Tag will transmit GPS coordinates each time the shark fin surfaces. Rubber washers are used to prevent irritation as well as medical grade nuts and bolts for insertion. Excess length of bolts are cut off to prevent drag. Beautiful picture, Christine! Click to enlarge.

Personal highlight of the trip: MAST Academy student, Clara, points out after touching her first shark, “If you rub the shark against the grain of its scales it feels like it hasn’t shaved in a while.” Hahaha, thanks Clara, MAST students and my favorite shark team for making learning fun, scientific data collecting the most amazing thing I’ve ever done, and South Florida the only place I want to be…despite the cold. :p

Much love to you all, happy holidays and see you next year!

Virginia, RJD Shark Intern

2 thoughts on “Decked Out for the Holiday Season

  1. I know what you are doing is vital but I can’t help but feel a little bit sorry for the shark seeing that drill going into it’s tail lol. it looks a bit gruesome, if you have any idea does the shark feel any pain and how much of it does it feel if it does at all?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *