I was excited and humbled to have the opportunity to write the review for Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch’s book, Shark Doc, Shark Lab – The Life and Work of Samuel Gruber.
This book encapsulates not only the extraordinary journey of University of Miami researcher, Dr. Samuel Gruber (“Doc”), through life, but is a testament to the birth, evolution, and future of shark research through the eyes and outspoken words of one of the last remaining pioneers and true rebels of the field. Stafford-Deitsch has written and illustrated a book that tells Dr. Gruber’s story with a harmonious blend of his inspirational biography, the birth of the Bimini Biological Field Station (“Shark Lab”), research breakthroughs, vivid illustrations of research techniques, and natural history of sharks. Doc’s life story is dynamic and so unbelievable that it has to be true. This book also serves as a celebration for the decades of support from Doc’s family, staff, students, and volunteers, and validates the contagious passion we share.
As a former lab manager for Doc’s Shark Lab, I am biased; however, I had high expectations for this book—and I was not disappointed. I hope to collectively speak for all former staff and research students from the past 26 years by declaring that this book is a genius and entertaining narrative that accurately portrays Doc and provides a renewed appreciation for a man who played a pivotal role in our professional upbringing. I am aware that anyone writing a review for Shark Doc, Shark Lab will either receive laud and praise or a swift “Gruberization” by the book’s shark-loving protagonist. Disclaimers aside, it is worth the risk to pay homage to a man that has had an enormous impact on my life. The reader will discover that being “Gruberized” is not something of nightmares, but a mere right of passage that must be endured to be able to stake your claim as a legitimate shark researcher. Doc’s life as told by Shark Doc, Shark Lab uncovers many of the untold and unknown back stories to even his most esteemed colleagues and staff.
In a world of many self-proclaimed shark researchers and experts, Shark Doc, Shark Lab depicts the genesis or ground floor where many now-renowned researchers, scientists, professors, and conservationists first cut their teeth. The book contains a foreword by Pierre-Yves Cousteau, son of Jacques Cousteau, which brings to light the historic significance of the early days of Gruber’s work, with description of how he has initiated groundbreaking worldwide efforts for the conservation and protection of sharks. The book is littered with photos of Doc as a young man along with snippets from many of his major research discoveries and methods. The book is well organized into 10 cleverly-entitled chapters that transport the reader through a time when new discoveries on sharks happened weekly.
The book provides illustrated examples and descriptions of research techniques, such as long-line surveys, PIT tag implantation, diet studies, acoustic telemetry, and tracking. The book also features Bimini, The Bahamas, and some of the ecological perils it faces in the wake of crucial habitat loss of mangrove forests from development. The Bimini Shark Lab has used the island as a microcosm to answer many questions on habitat use, behavior, migration, growth rates, and the overall life history of lemon sharks. Also included is a collage of personal photographs from Doc, and from current and former staff and scientists, some of whom are now professional photographers. I particularly enjoyed this section of the book as it is similar to looking at an old high-school yearbook and checking out the early days of the lab which, surprisingly, has not changed much. A separate book could have been written on the progression of dogs that inhabited the lab and Doc’s affinity for these potcakes or “Boo Boos,” as he calls them.
The adventures of Dr. Samuel Gruber seem to be endless and the difficulty of such a book would be to condense them into the succinct entertaining masterpiece of a narrative that Jeremy Stafford-Deitch succeeded in creating. Still, I would have liked to have seen some more detailed information on some of the early research expeditions featured in photographs, which have only short captions. That said, Shark Doc, Shark Lab documents not only the life and times of Dr. Gruber, but is a valuable book for shark research and anyone who may have a stake or interest in the field. Proceeds from the sale of the book by the Save Our Seas Foundation will raise funds to design and build the Bimini Shark Lab II to continue the important research and conservation work of this institution. I strongly recommend immersing yourself in this fascinating and engrossing book. Prepare to be Gruberized!
Michael R. Timm Master of Professional Science Program Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science University of Miami, Miami, Florida. Shark Doc, Shark Lab – The Life and Work of Samuel Gruber by Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch. 2015. Save Our Seas Foundation. ISBN 2839917491, 9782839917490. 392 pages: color illustrations. US$29.93 (Amazon) or donation to the Bimini Shark Lab II (sharkdocsharklab.com) (hardback). Published: Bull Mar Sci. 92(3):383–384. 2016 http://dx.doi.org/10.5343/bms.br.2016.0004 Bulletin of Marine Science 383 © 2016 Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science of the University of Miami