Shark Tagging with the St. Thomas School

by James Komisarjevsky, RJD Intern
October 13, 2012

It was a quiet morning having to leave my house at 5:30AM in order to make it down to Islamorada for the shark trip planned for that day. Like always, I was screaming with excitement for being able to go out on the water with the RJD team and St. Thomas high school. Everybody had their hopes high and the RJD interns were even making friendly bets to see how many sharks we would be able to gather data on that day. Everybody knew it was going to be an awesome day when before leaving the docks, not one, but two rainbows had appeared in the sky. The RJD team and St. Thomas set out to the everglades national park in hopes of being able to gather data on some sharks.

The day started out strong. I happened to be the lucky one when I pulled up the first line and found a nurse shark at the other end. We all knew right then and there that today was a good day for shark research.  It was a female nurse with a total length of 228cm. Students from St. Thomas had the chance to gather vital data on this shark and since it was only the 1st one out of 30 drum lines, we knew that there would be more to come. The next few drum lines came up empty until the 7th one. When we picked up drum line number 7, we were all extremely happy to find that a 245cm female Bull shark was on the line. St. Thomas students helped gather data on this beautiful shark and because everything went so smoothly, students even had the opportunity to get a picture with the shark. Unfortunately for me, while we were working up the shark I had received some serious shark burn. No reason for me to complain though, because for me it is just a reminder of what a beautiful animal she was.

A student from St. Thomas has the opportunity to take a photo with a female bull shark


After a couple more drum lines were pulled up we were surprised to find a blacktip shark on the other end of the line. This blacktip had a total length of 145cm and gave more St. Thomas students the chance to gather more data. Only a few drum lines later were we surprised and excited to find another species of shark hooked on a drum line. This time, it was a female blacknose shark. Student got to get up close with this 110cm long shark. This shark had a lighter coloration than the typical blacknose shark. It was almost as if the shark resembled an albino blacknose when compared to the typical blacknose shark. We were all amazed at the beauty of the animal and that already, the St. Thomas school and the RJD team had been able to gather data on four different species of sharks.

Students from St. Thomas and RJD intern James pose for a picture with a blacknose shark

It wasn’t until the second to last drum line of that day until we had another black tip on the line. This was a 130cm female and everybody was excited at the opportunity to be able to sample another shark. By the fifth shark, the St. Thomas students were already pros at gathering data. The St. Thomas students had done an awesome job with every shark. All the students had the opportunity to perform a job and some even were able to perform two. All in all, it was a great day. With data gathered on five sharks, everyone took time on the boat ride back to relax and reminisce on what an awesome day it was.

RJD intern Kyra helps a student perform a test to see if the nictitating membrane is firing.


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