What is your connection to the Shark Lab?

I have been teaching an annual Biology of Sharks  course at BBFS since 1996. The course meets for one week at BBFS. Here is a description:

If you’re passionate about learning about sharks, especially in their environment, if you’re not afraid of swimming next to an 8-foot Caribbean reef shark, and if you don’t mind the tropical ocean as one of your classrooms, then this rigorous introduction to shark biology might be just what you’re looking for.

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Coastal Carolina University’s Department of Marine Science offers an exceptional opportunity for field experience in the Biology of Sharks course held in part at the Bimini Biological Field Station (BBFS) in the Bahamas. The course features lectures, discussions, analysis of research papers, frequent field trips, video presentations, and personal encounters with several species of large, actively feeding, and free-swimming sharks. Lectures focus on broad aspects of the biology of sharks, including: diversity, evolution, anatomy, physiology, behavior, ecology, fisheries, captive biology, conservation, and biomedical uses. The majority of the academic work will be field-oriented. This fieldwork will introduce students to research techniques used at Coastal Carolina University and BBFS, where research on sharks has been ongoing for over 20 years.

Before leaving for Bimini, students will participate in a number of classroom activities (lectures, discussions) focused on introducing them to the biology of sharks and their trip to Bimini.

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Tell us a story about Doc?

There are innumerable stories, but what I enjoy most are my private conversations with Doc, and observing him interact with my students. Doc has a big personality, and always captivates all of us in our group meetings, but catching him in one-on-one conversations with my students is a delight. Doc is generous in so many ways, but most notably with his time and wisdom.

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How did meeting Doc and working at the Shark Lab change your life?

Meeting Doc and working at BBFS changed the trajectory of my professional life. It reconnected me to my passion —studying sharks — and it enabled me to share this with my students. The Biology of Sharks course at CCU, at one time one of the few field programs focusing on sharks, and likely the longest-running, attracts a large number of students to Coastal Carolina University — so many that Doc can claim some credit for the success of our marine science major and thus the university. Many students who are alums of the program have gone on to earn advanced degrees and work in the field of shark biology. Many of my former students also have worked at BBFS in virtually all capacities, from volunteers to lab managers.

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Also, Doc and Shark Lab introduced me to many new, valued professional colleagues and friends. I started a list that grew to over 50 names that included volunteers, lab managers, PIs, professors, visiting scholars, students, and others – way too many to include here.

Shark Lab provided me with several amazing graduate students, including Craig O’Connell, Christian Pankow, and Bryan Keller.

Finally, Doc and Shark Lab put me in the water with the stunning beasts that Doc and Shark Lab have spent the last 20 years studying!

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