Shark Doc, Shark Lab chronicles the birth and growth to maturity of the Bimini Biological Field Station, a tropical laboratory dedicated to exploring and uncovering the mysteries of shark biology. It centers on the efforts and extraordinary research of Dr. Samuel “Doc” Gruber (“Sonny” to those of us who have known him for decades) and the legions of aspiring shark biologists who have at one time or another called the lab “home.”
While modest in size and scale, the volume and quality of the work that has originated from the lab and its many scholars rivals labs that are exponentially larger, better funded, and better staffed. This is due in part to the dogged determination of Doc and his lifelong dedication to developing THE tropical shark field station. The lab’s work has largely centered on investigating every aspect of the biology and life history of the lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris), a common inhabitant of the shallow inshore waters of the Bahamas. It would be safe to say that more is known about virtually every aspect of the biology and life history of lemon sharks than any other species. And this knowledge base originates from work at BBFS.
The biologists who have studied at the lab include many of the foremost shark scientists in the world. The number of scientific journal articles is almost uncountable. The contributions from the lab to magazines and broadcast television have helped to sway attitudes about sharks from ones of hate for a mindless predator to recognition of them as victims of overfishing and coastal urban development, deserving of our strongest protective measures.
For those unfamiliar with how field research is conducted, unfamiliar with the hassles of fund raising and generation of endless reports, and the sheer amount of work that must go on in the background to support three hours of adrenaline-packed work with living sharks, the book will offer some real insight in the workaday world of marine biologists. Those of us who have followed similar paths will smile, nod our head at the appropriate places in the stories, and be grateful that the author has chosen not to reveal EVERY detail of field research! Most of us can guess at what “might have happened” as we reflect that we, too, have “been there, done that, moved on, and lived to tell about it.”
The Bimini Lab will forever be mentioned in the company of bigger labs such as Cape Haze, Mote Marine Laboratory, and even the old Lerner Lab in the Bahamas. All have a had profound impact on our knowledge and understanding of these great creatures. The lab has needs. The world of shark research is changing and the costs of just maintaining a solid profile in the research world are staggering without even considering necessary expansion. I only hope when Doc hangs up his tagging darts that the lab can entice someone with Doc’s motivation, drive, and love for the lab to continue the legacy of the lab. I have my doubts that such a person exists. Without fear of contradiction, it is safe to say that Doc is simply one-of-a-kind.
Book review – April 2016
Dr Jeffrey C. Carrier Professor Emeritus of Biology Albion College, Albion MI USA
Dr. Jeffrey Carrier was a faculty member at Albion College from 1979 to 2010. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Miami in 1974. Dr. Carrier also holds an appointment as an Adjunct Research Scientist with Mote Marine Laboratory (Sarasota and Summerland Key, FL). He now serves as a consultant, providing public lectures on topics related to his shark research and south Florida ecosystems, and markets his underwater and wildlife photography for his company, Cirratum Productions, LLC.
Dr. Carrier’s primary research interests center on studies of aging, growth, migration, and reproductive biology of nurse sharks (Ginglymostoma cirratum) in the Florida Keys. His studies with long-time colleague Harold L. “Wes” Pratt of Mote Marine Laboratory document the courtship and mating behaviors of nurse sharks, and his work has been featured on numerous television shows.