Elliott Norse, Ph.D.

Each month, RJD will be honoring a scientist or ocean conservationist whose lifetime of achievements has significantly impacted the field of marine conservation.

This month, we honor Dr. Elliott Norse – Ichthyologist, marine conservationist, author, and photographer. Over the last four decades, Dr. Norse has become one of the most influential shark scientists, often bridging the gap between conservation science and policy.

Below is an excerpt from the Marine Conservation Institute website, describing some of Dr. Norse’s career highlights:

Dr. Norse has worked at the conservation science-policy interface for his entire career. After earning his B.S. in Biology from Brooklyn College, he studied the ecology of blue crabs in the Caribbean and the tropical East Pacific during his doctoral years at University of Southern California and his postdoctoral fellowship years at University of Iowa. Starting in 1978 he worked at the US Environmental Protection Agency, White House Council on Environmental Quality (where he defined biological diversity as conservation’s overarching goal), Ecological Society of America, The Wilderness Society and Ocean Conservancy before founding Marine Conservation Institute in 1996. Dr. Norse’s 150+ publications include Global Marine Biological Diversity: A Strategy for Building Conservation into Decision Making (1993) and Marine Conservation Biology: The Science of Maintaining the Sea’s Biodiversity (2005). He is a Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation, was President of the Society for Conservation Biology’s Marine Section, received the Nancy Foster Award for Habitat Conservation from the National Marine Fisheries Service, was named Brooklyn College 2008 Distinguished Alumnus and winner of the 2012 Chairman’s Medal from the Seattle Aquarium.

For more information on Dr. Norse’s current work with the Marine Conservation Institute, please visit: http://www.marine-conservation.org/

Feel free to also download a podcast by Dr. Elliott Norse on “The Evolution of Marine Protected Areas” from our EduMedia section of the website.

Jim Abernethy

Each month, SRC will be honoring an artist whose work strives to raise ocean awareness, inspire a conservation ethic, and captivate audiences worldwide.

This month, we honor Jim Abernethy – award-winning underwater photographer, filmmaker, author, shark ecotour pioneer, and passionate conservationist. His shark encounter expeditions are like no other, and come with strong recommendations from all SRC staff, students and volunteers who have accompanied any of his trips.

Below is an excerpt from Jim’s website, highlighting a few of his numerous accomplishments:

Jim Abernethy, award-winning underwater photographer, filmmaker, and author, is a pioneer in shark encounters, without a cage. Starting at a young age, scuba diving served as an inspiration for his life’s mission as a conservationist and has enabled him to interact with some of the most notorious sharks. For decades, he has been running photography/video expeditions to engage with the world’s largest predatory sharks-Abernethy pioneered shark encounters without a cage (day and night) with tiger sharks, great hammerheads, oceanic white tips, bull, and lemon sharks. It should be noted that Jim is best known as an extremely passionate crusader for their protection.

His award-winning marine life images are often featured in top photography magazines such as Wetpixel and Nature’s Best Photography. Jim lives at sea, in the Bahamas, running shark expeditions and wild dolphin encounters year round on his boat, “Shear Water.” His dive business, Jim Abernethy’s Scuba Adventures Inc., is based in West Palm Beach, FL.

Abernethy has hosted many of the world’s top nature filmmakers and magazines such as IMAX, National Geographic, BBC Wildlife, Animal Planet, and the Discovery Channel. He owns the “Marine Life Art Gallery” in West Palm Beach, FL, where his captivating images and educational books are available. When he’s not below sea level, Jim is often seen piloting his flying inflatable boat (ultra-light), “Oversear,” in order to capture nature at sea with his lens from an aerial perspective.

While Abernethy is well known as a photographer and passionate conservationist, it’s his unique ability to bring divers up close to some of the world’s largest predatory sharks, turning them into strong passionate ambassadors to save them, which sets him apart from all others. His relentless pursuit of his life’s mission is to save the planet’s ocean creatures, starting with sharks, through his photography, books, films, and presentations.

For more information on Jim’s expeditions, please visit: http://www.scuba-adventures.com/

To view his photography gallery, please visit: http://www.jimabernethyimagery.com/

Congratulations Jim, and thank you for your sharing your radiate passion for our oceans.

Photo of the week: blacktip shark

This week’s photo of the week shows a blacktip shark swimming away after being tagged and released by the RJD team. Enjoy!

Photo of the week: goliath grouper!

Although we use specialized fishing gear designed to minimize bycatch, we do occasionally catch large predatory animals other than sharks. This beautiful goliath grouper, more than six feet long and estimated at over 300 pounds, was caught last weekend. As goliath grouper are a Critically Endangered species (according to the IUCN Red List) and are protected by both state and Federal rules, we released it immediately. RJD media specialist Christine Shepard took this picture as the grouper was swimming away.

Photo credit: Christine Shepard. This goliath grouper, a state and Federally protected species, was released immediately. Christine got a picture as it was swimming away.

Photo(s) of the week: Two RJD students win prizes in RSMAS Underwater Photo Contest!

Congratulations to RJD intern Kyra Hartog and Ph.D. student Austin Gallagher! At the recent Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences underwater photo contest, Kyra won the “Best student entry” category, and Austin placed third!

Kyra submitted a photo of a whale shark that she took in Mexico.

RJD intern Kyra Hartog poses with her winning photo

Austin submitted a  photo of a lemon shark and a tiger shark he took in the Bahamas.

RJD Ph.D. student Austin Gallagher poses with his third place winning photo

You can see all of the fantastic photos that won or placed here. Over 700 pictures from all over the world were submitted to this year’s RSMAS underwater photo contest, the most in the history of the event! RJD students and staff, including our director Dr. Hammersclag, have won and placed in several past RSMAS underwater photo contests.  Congratulations again to Kyra and Austin for your great photos!

A Title Can’t Possibly Do This Day Justice


So, when I started working with the RJ Dunlap Program, back when we were still the South Florida Student Shark Program, are team was essentially all girls, except for Dr. H and Capt. Curt… sorry guys! Now, we’ve brought in quite a couple of our male counterparts, and yes, it has proved a great advantage and they have added IMMENSELY to our program BUT can I just say how awesome it was for us to dominate not only a usual 46ft scuba boat but a brand-spankin’ new 61ft beaut our wonderful Capt. Curt has provided us with? The lovely ladies of Our Lady of Lourdes High School, an all girls private school, and Miss Sara Brenes, local Shark Saver (doing some incredible things in the world of shark advocacy) were here to join us today, allowing us to truly strut our girl power.

Everyone was incredible. Everyone helped pull up lines, everyone worked fast, efficiently and correctly on every endeavor of the day. It was truly AWESOME. I’ve had the pleasure of working with these girls last year when we did an overnight trip to Broad Key, but I was honestly surprised at how much they remembered, not only of their duties to be performed that day, but the array of knowledge of our current research they had collected since last time. So today, yes, everyone was on top of they’re game. Some girls even got on top of their shark… Needless to say, we did get some bites.


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Photo of the week: RJD staff sample a large lemon shark

RJD student David Shiffman and intern Stacy Assael restrain a large lemon shark so that volunteers can take scientific samples

Photo of the week: breaching great white shark

A breaching great white shark in South Africa. Photo credit: Dr. Neil Hammerschlag

Exciting changes on the RJD blog!

We’re happy to announce some exciting changes on the RJD blog! In addition to our trip reports and updates from Sophi, we are going to add some new types of content!

Each week, an RJD team member will write a post summarizing an important issue in marine biology or ocean conservation. These will introduce you to conservation issues, environmental organizations, and cutting edge research from around the world. Your comments and questions on these posts are welcome, we hope to use them to spur a series of interesting discussions.

Each month, an RJD team member will introduce and explain a new research paper from the field of marine conservation. We’ll also discuss some of our own research papers.

Finally, we will use the blog to showcase some amazing ocean photography and videography from our team members and from other scientists and conservationists from around the world!

These changes will start next week! Thanks for reading the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program’s blog!

Research Efforts Unite!

The University of Miami R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program (RJD) has joined forces with The Billfish Foundation (TBF) to develop a billfish tagging program for high school students that will educate, invigorate, and create conservation-minded anglers, ultimately providing research opportunities.

Students from South Broward Marine Magnet School on an outing with TBF. Click to enlarge.

This new and exciting program will provide RJD students with the opportunity to spend time on the water with world-renown captains and anglers who will show them the techniques needed to successfully catch sailfish safely.

South Broward students attentively listening to a TBF angler. Click to enlarge.

Last month off Lighthouse Point, FL students from South Broward Marine Magnet high school had a phenomenal time fishing offshore (some for the first time) and having the opportunity to participate in billfish research. Not only did the students learn about the biological and economic importance of sportfishing locally and internationally; they were able to release 4 sailfish, tagging two of them – adding to the world’s largest private billfish tagging database that provides vital data about the species. And billfish weren’t the only fish they saw; the students also saw a great hammerhead, kingfish and a number of dolphin.
The trip was such a success that TBF and RJD are already planning more billfishing trips for 2012!

Sailfish says his goodbye. Click to enlarge.