Classroom on the Water

Friday, April 1st 2011

Today the team headed out for another shark research adventure, joined by a Fisheries Ecosystem graduate class from RSMAS, taught by Dr. David Die and Dr. Beth Babcock. The day started out beautifully, except for a vicious wind blowing from the west. In order to escape it, the team headed to one of our beloved sites in Everglades National Park: Curt 1, named after our Field Technician!

As the team approached the study site, threatening clouds loomed. After a few drops of rain and a whole lot of bluffing, the clouds blew off and the team and students worked quickly to put the drumlines into the water. Delicious chunks of fresh caught mackerel, amberjack, and barracuda were used to hopefully appeal to some nearby sharks.

Dominique assisting grad student Ravi Maharaj in putting out a drumline. Click to enlarge.

Once the drumlines were in place, it was time for lunch. While everyone enjoyed lunch, Dominique briefed everyone on the most exciting part of the trip – our shark research! Upon finishing lunch, everyone braced himself or herself for the retrieval. Disappointingly we didn’t pull up a shark until line #9. It was a large, and I mean LARGE (262cm), lively male nurse shark. The team worked quickly to secure the animal and brought it aboard. Then, the REAL learning began! Students assisted by the team helped to sample the nurse shark. Afterwards, the team paused a second for everyone to touch and get a close look at the beautiful shark. Nurse sharks’ skin is amazingly tough –something comparable to 80-grit sandpaper. After everyone had a close look, the team put the nurse shark back into his home and went onward.

Grad student Aki Shiroza always anticipates the rebait, this time with a delicious chunk of tuna. Click to enlarge.

The day continued with 3 more sharks: 1 beautiful blacktip and 2 more naughty (just kidding, they were just feisty) nurse sharks. Despite the low turnout of sharks, everyone had fun and learned plenty in our classroom on the water, just a great example of the goals of the RJD Program fulfilled. By taking students out, we hope to foster learning and appreciation so all will want to protect and conserve the ocean and the life within.

Sincerely Sharky,

Laura E. Rock, RJD Intern

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