What is your connection to the Shark Lab?
I was a volunteer for the first two months of 1996, then on the staff on and off from then until the fall of 1998. I did my postdoctoral research in association with BBFS in 2007/2008 and have remained a collaborator ever since.
Tell us a story about Doc?
Doc and Mari have been key figures in my life. They provided a place for me to work with sharks, introduced me to my wife, were there at my dissertation defense, my wedding and have remained supportive over the years in all of my endeavors. Doc himself taught me how to set a gillnet and then, after we caught three lemons and he gunned it for the pen, he taught me how to get the gillnet out of the prop (it involves a lot of cutting!). It would be very hard to pick one story out of so many about Doc, but I think one of my favorite days with him was when we worked up two gravid lemon sharks in 2008 that proved to have been born in Bimini in the mid-1990s. Another highlight that same year was when my wife and I introduced vertical deep line fishing to Bimini. The Lab was trying to get large sharks for a film crew and remembering Dean Grubb’s success with benthic deep lines several years prior, we convinced Doc that we could try vertical longlines to target big tiger sharks in 250 m of water off South Bimini. He was skeptical as we sat in the rain for 3 hours waiting to haul. As the line started to come up I looked down and saw a green speck far below us. Doc came alive and jumped onto our boat. Doc was probably twice the age of each of the other guys but I’ll be damned if he didn’t haul in more that line that all of us. I will probably never forgot him whooping and hollering as we saw the first of two 350 cm + tigers hit the surface.
How did meeting Doc and working at the Shark Lab change your life?
If I had not met Doc and worked at the Shark Lab my life couldn’t have been more different. First and foremost, I met the love of my life, Debra Abercrombie at the lab and we have now been together for 18 years. I also met Kevin Feldheim there, who together with being one of my closest friends inspired me to study shark genetics. And of course Doc provided the foundation that my entire career was built from.