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September 27, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

BY: Elizabeth Wilson


© OCEANA / Carlos Minguell


Today we traveled to the Dry Tortugas, a small group of islands at the end of the Florida Keys, to study sharks. On board with is the shark team from University of Miami’s R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program, lead by Dr. Neil Hammerschlag.  Other members of the team on board are Lab Manager and graduate student Dominique Lazzare and Captain Curt Slonim.

We arrived in the Dry Tortugas National Park, anchored near Fort Jefferson and started surveying for sharks.  We had a successful research trip where we tagged and sampled 3 Caribbean reef sharks and 2 nurse sharks.  We attached identification tags to the Caribbean reef sharks and sent them back on their way.  The nurse sharks were too big and feisty to bring on the boat for tagging….one was 10.5 feet long and was the biggest nurse shark any of us had ever seen.

Dr. Hammerschlag and his team are evaluating the ecosystem roles of sharks as well as determine the relative abundances, growth rates, and sex ratios of coastal shark species, the presence and concentrations of trace metals and other toxins present in these sharks, and residency and movement patterns of these sharks. They use the latest in satellite technology to track the daily movements of tagged sharks. Movements from these sharks are uploaded online for the public to follow in near-real time. To check out the sharks, go to http:/www.rjd.miami.edu.