What inspired you to research sharks?
Growing up in New Jersey my first encounter with sharks and marine life came from visiting the New York Aquarium. It was here that I would close my eyes and imagine swimming alongside these great predators. My enthusiasm and drive to study sharks and marine life grew as my father would return from his tours with the NAVY and recount stories of seeing sharks “as big as their naval ships” and “mermaids swimming off in the distance”. Undoubtedly, I literally could not wait to get my feet wet. At the age of 12 I encountered my first shark while scuba diving. I will never forget the epic combination of strength and grace that took shape right before my eyes in the form of a Blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus).
Working in conjunction with citizen scientists and local Belizeans, we hope to enhance legislation to protect populations of commercially targeted apex predators. Advancing shark and grouper (F.Serranidae) conservation through the combination of research and outreach has become my passion.
A great moment in the field
That moment when it is pitch black and an iridescent triangular fin pierces the water is unforgettable. During the January 2014 expedition, I along with a group of Earthwatchers had the privilege of catching and tagging a Cuban Night Shark (Carcharhinus signatus) measuring a little over 2 meters. There were cheers all around as that species has not been caught during our shark survey in over 5 years. Not only was it an exciting moment for research purposes, but the volunteers truly appreciated and were in awe of the experience. They could feel the excitement from the scientists and knew they were a part of something special.
Some of the best moments for me arrive weeks after my volunteers have left the field in the form of letters, emails and cards. Some letters from my teen volunteers sum it all up for me as to why the importance of our research efforts go far beyond shark conservation.