Dr. Mike Heithaus is a marine ecologist, Dean of the College of Arts, Sciences & Education, and Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Florida International University (FIU). At FIU, he served as the Director of the Marine Sciences Program and was the founding Executive Director of the School of Environment, Arts and Society (SEAS).
Dr. Samuel “Doc” Gruber has been a pillar of the field of shark biology for decades. His pioneering work has ranged widely from studies of vision and behavior to genetics and ecology. During his career, he has trained and inspired dozens of shark biologists and millions of enthusiasts around the world. In the course of his work, he founded the Bimini Biological Field Station “Shark Lab,” which has grown into one of the most important sites for shark science in the world.
Shark Doc, Shark Lab chronicles Doc’s research career, including the founding and growth of Shark Lab. The stories in this book are a testament to Doc’s tenacity and creativity and the historical photos help provide a window on a very exciting time in shark research. The illustrations of how shark research is conducted are excellent and help bring the narrative to life, and the final section of recollections by colleagues and Shark Lab alumns provides an entertaining and illuminating window on Doc and the lab.
This is a book that I will recommend to all aspiring students of shark biology and enthusiasts. Although the occasional detail may be – wisely – withheld, the narrative reveals how much blood, sweat, and tears are needed to transform a field. Studying sharks may be exciting, fun, and rewarding but it is also incredibly hard. Funding challenges, mechanical breakdowns (usually at the worst possible time), uncooperative animals, and terrible weather are just a few of the myriad things that can go wrong. But, with dogged determination Doc has overcome all of these challenges and more. That isn’t to say that everything has worked. Plenty of ideas never yielded the insights Doc had hoped, but his willingness to push the boundaries has been central to his overall success.
Shark Lab’s impact is truly impressive when considered in the context of its size and resources. Few, if any, marine stations have produced so much science, captivated the public’s attention across so much of the world, and trained so many future marine biologists relative to their budget. Even with all of the amazing research and public outreach that has been performed to date, Shark Lab is poised for even more important work as its researchers begin to unravel the ecological importance of sharks to tropical marine ecosystems and gain detailed insights into their behavior and biology. Keeping a modest footprint is central to the lab’s future plans, but the talent assembled and the unbelievable access to sharks and their ecosystems ensure that with appropriate support, Shark Lab will continue to be on the forefront of shark biology and conservation for decades to come!