What is your connection to the Shark Lab?
I never worked at the Shark Lab and have only been there once. However, I worked at Bimini many times with Sonny Gruber prior to his founding the lab.
Tell us a story about Doc?
We were on a cruise to Bimini in January of 1986 and there was a hurricane that came through S. FL forcing the ship to head back to Miami for safety. Three of us had gone to church to hear Bonefish Willie preach Sunday morning and after church we noticed that: 1) the ship was gone and 2) there were huge waves around Bimini that almost capsized us a number of times when we trying to get out to where the ship had been anchored. We had a radio, but were unable to raise anyone, although we did hear people talking about a boat that was capsized off S. Bimini. With no where else to go, we went to a house where Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch was staying, since he was on this cruise with us taking photos of sharks for a book that he was working on. Soon, we saw some people off in the distance dragging a boat across the flats of Bimini Sound, so we started wading out to meet them to help them. As we got closer we realized that it was Sonny Gruber and two graduate students that were dragging their Boston Whaler upside down across the flats. We managed to flip the boat right side up and dragged it back to the shore in front of the house where Jeremy was staying. We took the engine off the boat and carried it into the house, up the stairs into a bathtub, where we rinsed it off with freshwater trying to reduce the damage to the engine. It was pouring down rain this whole time and we had just waded a long ways through the ocean, so everyone was completely soaked. None of us had any clothes except for those on our backs and between the seven of us we hardly had any money. We all borrowed clothes from Jeremy so that we could at least be in dry clothes. This was a funny sight because there was John Morrissey at 6’7″ trying to fit in Jeremy’s clothes as well as Jill Scharold, who was about 5″2″ also in Jeremy’s dry clothes. With the little money that we had we bought some bread, a few cans of tuna and some peanut butter and we didn’t have much more food than that for the several days that we were stranded in Jeremy’s house. I think that Jeremy had money and that we borrowed that to get some more food. Eventually the ship came back and got all of us, but we were there for a few days with not much to do except wait and hang out with Sonny Gruber. One of the more humorous things was that when we went back to the ship they accidently dropped the engine that we have salvaged overboard and it sank to the bottom and was completely immersed in seawater all over again after all the trouble that we went to in our attempts to save it from being ruined.
How did meeting Doc and working at the Shark Lab change your life?
Working with Sonny, but not at the shark lab put me on a course of studying elasmobranchs, which I have been doing ever since then, has brought me back several times to studying lemon sharks and dealing with Sonny. I have met many people and gone many places and done many things all because of the start that I got working with him.