Look for posts about the exciting work being done in Marine Environmental Science and Sharks, Skates & Rays!
This year we had a little bit of everything, and yes, even a beautiful, nearly 10 ft long blue shark that our team was able to assist in tagging, collecting data and drawing a blood sample from. We had fog so thick you couldn’t tell we were on an island, rain so hard it counted as a free shower, sun so bright we couldn’t wait to go swimming, and days full of learning as much as we could about sharks and rays. From examining anatomy to discussing how sharks are portrayed in books, films, and on TV, to designing experiments, and creating projects to help share what we’ve learned with our communities- throw in a visit from a Shark Week celebrity and you get one busy week! I know it wasn’t always easy but I hope you are proud of the work you put in and impressed by just how much you can accomplish in a day- at least a Shoals Marine Lab day! As we all slip back into our ‘normal’ lives, I hope we take some time to reflect on the unique experience, and how it can help us going forward- whether it’s the connections we made, the information we learned, skills we refined, or fears we conquered.
Until next time Appledore!
My outreach project was about Encouraging Proper Handling of Sharks by Recreational Fisherman.
Shayna and I originally got the topic of Handling of Sharks, so we wanted to do something that would narrow down the wide field of fisheries in general. Choosing to do recreational fisherman meant we had to focus on areas closer to docks and the water to put up our poster.
While trying to figure out what our poster was going to look like, we made sure that our poster was easy to read and we focused a lot on making our poster eye catching so that we could get the attention of the fisherman.
For the specific steps shown on the poster, we referred a lot towards the handling that we had seen the staff perform while handling the blue shark on the fishing trip, like using the wet towel over most of the head, and also using an aerator to keep the shark more comfortable if on the deck of the boat.
For the presentation, we wanted to make it pretty interesting to watch and listen to, rather than the same presentation over and over again. We also practiced our presentation a lot, because we wanted it to run through smoothly and we did not want to be too nervous about it.
Overall, we actually do plan on using a poster of this kind of create more awareness of the dangers of mishandling sharks in both our states. I enjoyed this project, and I want to learn more and help others learn more about how to stop the mishandling of sharks if they are brought onboard a vessel.
Let’s just say the first fishing trip we went on during the sharks class did not match up to my expectations. I didn’t catch anything, I watched a couple other people catch some Mackerel, and a couple other people got seasick. I did learn how to use the fishing rod properly, but I was disappointed that I didn’t catch anything interesting.
So, when it was time to go on our second fishing trip, I did not have the best expectations, but I had some hope. I was expecting some more Mackerel, maybe a bigger fish. Oh, how I was surprised.
We got on the boat at a fairly early hour (when we would usually be starting breakfast), and we were all pretty tired, but ready for a day of fishing. It took about an hour to get there, and then we got to learn about how to hook the rods that are meant for catching sharks, which is something I hadn’t known about before. The fishing hook actually has two hooks, because apparently the sharks had been eating just the part of the bait that was not on the hook and leaving the rest, so that they wouldn’t get caught. So, we watched the two masters students put the bait on the shark hooks and then we got set up for fishing.
Off the bat Conner caught a fish on my rod while I was getting water, and a few minutes later I caught a couple more fish!
A couple hours later, I had switched rods and I felt a big tug on my line! Ossian came over to help me, but we had to cut my line because it was too heavy or struggling too much. I still really want to know what it was, but at this point after asking around and doing some research, I think it might have been a dogfish or a large fish.
Right after I felt the large tug on my line and Ossian came over, there was a cry of “Shark!”. That was another reason why we had to cut the line; if we had not caught a shark we probably could have tried to figure out how to get the fish up and see what it was.
So, there was shark in the water!
It took 40 minutes to get it up onto the boat, because it kept on fighting and running away, but in that time I saw a shark in natural water for the first time. It was an amazing experience. I think that moment, when I saw the shark for the first time, was the moment that I realized that marine science could more than just a hobby for me.
This is the shark in the water!
Today a few of the group finished dinner early and took the opportunity to go for a hike and explore the island. We ended up at the Devil’s Dancefloor, a mess of rocks and cliffs right on the northern tip of Appledore. We took some pictures and headed back to the classroom for another lecture. It was good to get some time off from the constant classes.
We also worked on our anatomy projects. I actually enjoyed it, because I focused on scales. I was able to analyze and compare three beautiful scale samples from the dorsal areas of a Scalloped Hammerhead, an Atlantic Angel Shark, and a Spiny Dogfish. Definitely a fascinating project.
For the past few days I have been working on my Outreach Project with my partner, Juliet. Our project is focusing on common myths about sharks and rays. At first we focused just on shark myths, but we wanted to cover a wider range of elasmobranchs so we decided to do rays as well. In the beginning we just brainstormed different myths and wrote them down, along with the truths behind them. After our brainstorm session we decided that our target audience should be young children because many of the myths were quite funny, as well as them having truths that were easy to understand.
Our final project idea was to do a children’s book with lots of cartoon drawings depicting the myths in fun, engaging ways for young children. The drawings took a long time but we persevered and ended up finishing them by Saturday afternoon, just in time to crack on with our presentation, which I worked on late into Saturday night.
On Sunday I was expecting to be very nervous to present our project to the class, as I normally don’t like presenting in front of lots of people. However, this group made me feel at ease so I felt good when the time came to get up in front of everyone. Overall, even though it was a lot of work, I actually enjoyed making our project.
Today we presented our outreach projects. Each group presented for 5-10 minutes. My project was on the effects of pollution on elasmobranchs. We decided to create a brochure and ‘distribute it’ at aquariums, using children as our target audience. We believe that, by doing so, it would be possible to have widespread influence on the leaders of tomorrow. By instilling environmental respect and education early on in elementary school students, they’d be more likely to support conservation in the future.
After the presentations, a few of us played volleyball and then returned to the Devil’s Dance Floor. The wind and waves were strong today, and it was gorgeous. The dead seal was still there, but a bit more decomposed than last time. We also saw a live seal, which Jackson first thought was a buoy. Overall it’s been a pretty good day.
My outreach project was on the misconceptions associated with sharks and how they actually benefit their environments. Sharks play an important role in the food chain and their behavior is linked to the population and well being of much smaller creatures. Our examples were: how sharks protect reefs by keeping reef fish populations in check, how tiger sharks prevent sea turtles from grazing sea grass too much by keeping them dispersed, and how divers are training reef sharks to feed on lion fish which are an invasive species. We chose these examples because they are things that humans care about. Humans care about reefs because they are beautiful and they are a great source of tourism, Everybody loves sea turtles, and fisheries could be negatively affected by lion fish overpopulating certain areas. Hopefully in due time sharks will not be seen as mindless killers and be respected for their contribution to marine life.
My partner Colin and I did our outreach project on reducing the bycatch of sharks and other elasmobranchs. I hope our presentation informed people as much as it did me. I now know way more about fisheries and bycatch than I previously did, including the fact that bycatch accounts for around 40% of the worlds total catch. This project made me really think about ways we can reduce bycatch in order to help our oceans. I know that fisherman might not like the ideas we proposed as it can be a lot of work for them and can cost them a lot of extra money, but it’s crucial they know that the bycatch of these top predators can hurt many species including the ones they make money off of. If our project could get fisherman to look at things in perspective for long term results instead of short term, it would be successful. I also did not realize how much it was up to the politicians to help solve this problem. Laws need to be passed in order to regulate all of these different fishing techniques and make sure that the accidental catching and harming of elasmobranchs is reduced. I understand that bycatch is a problem that can never actually be solved, but there are definitely ways we can reduce it.
For my out reach project, I was partnered with Eli. Together we created a brochure and a power point presentation on shark finning. For this project, we did extensive research on the topic of shark finning. We had information on what it was, the history of it, general information about it, the affects of shark finning, some statistics and different ways people could help. For the general idea of our brochure, we decided to have elicit empathy for this terrible act. We also wanted the over all message of our brochure to be a call to action for the everybody all over the world.
Going into this project I was hoping to do it on shark finning and I was glad that somebody else also thought it would be interesting. Although I already had some knowledge about shark finning and how horrible it is, this project really taught me a lot. I did not know the full extent and effect that shark finning has. I also learned that shark products, such as shark fin soup, have high amounts of mercury and could lead to blindness. Overall, I had a really fun time with this project. It also was very enjoyable to truly learn about shark finning. I personally think that the brochure we created could actually be printed and used in the real world (not just as our project).
– Jordan Bell
This is Augusta and my outreach project really connected to my life because I love watching horror movies and my project connected to how movies portray sharks as evil and how we can help change peoples minds. I’ve always loved sharks wanted to help them but now I have some ideas on how. This has shown me ways that I can share. ideas about shark conservation and spreading it to the public. Especially how wrong the sharks are shown in TV and movies.