What is your connection to the Shark Lab?
I was keen to apply to volunteer at the station before I started my undergraduate degree after seeing the lab on a documentary but further education called. After finishing up my degree, I saved to come and volunteer here for six months. Although I had previously volunteered with a white shark dive operator in South Africa, I really wanted to learn more scientific based fieldwork. I first volunteered at the Sharklab from July-December 2010, during which time I also did the Marquesas project. Having been there, I knew I wanted to come back and began writing a PhD proposal. Luckily I was selected to come back as a principal investigator (PI), so I could pursue my own research. I returned to the lab in the PI position in January 2012 and will be here until March 2015.
Tell us a story about Doc?
I remember on the haul of a deep line, we caught a reasonably large tiger shark. After securing the shark to the boat and working it up, Doc was desperate to get in to the water with it , so much so that he jumped in with his sunglasses, hat and everything else you would wear to watch a shark from a boat. As he swam from the back of the boat around to the shark, he started losing various items, which I scrambled behind him to collect. Once back on the boat, Doc was beaming about catching the shark for the course to see, congratulated us all on a very efficient work up and then noticed he was missing his items. He was relieved to see we had that covered as well!
Tell us a story about the Shark Lab?
One of my favourite memories from the Sharklab was my first ever thanksgiving. As a Brit, it was a holiday I had never celebrated before. I remember several (American) members of staff slaving in the kitchen making their favourite traditional dishes to share with everyone and jesting about which was better. When we all sat down to eat mid-afternoon the dining room was jam-packed with people. The nicest part was to see that those enjoying the meal weren’t just current Sharklab personnel, but those that had been there before, including former lab managers, as well as the people that lived next door, so demonstrating that the lab is part of the life of Bimini.
How did meeting Doc and working at the Shark Lab change your life?
Doc is a unique, tenacious character who aspiring researchers can learn a great deal from in different capacities. I am very grateful for the opportunity that he and the lab have provided me. During my time here I have learnt more than just how to work with sharks; I have learnt how to live in a small research environment – in this case a relatively cramped space with 20 other people for 49 weeks of the year without totally losing my mind (at least permanently). In addition, and so importantly, I have not only made lots of professional contacts, but also lots of good friends and memories to take away with me. It’s been a character building experience, and a great grounding for what I hope will be a lifetime in elasmobranch research.