What is your connection to the Shark Lab?
I have worked with Dr. Gruber for 27 years now, so it is impossible for me to pick a single, or even a few, stories about him or the lab for there are so many. Doc hired me as a college freshman at the University of Miami in 1988 and throughout my undergraduate days, Doc and Marie were essentially my parents away from home. Doc gave me my first exposure to field research, an opportunity for which I am forever grateful, and this was before BBFS came to exist.
When Doc began setting up BBFS I remember going to Army surplus and picking up 20 bunk beds in my pickup truck. We carried them to Bimini and the future BBFS in 1989 aboard a beautiful Hatteras yacht. I remember the look on the boat owner’s face when Doc instructed us to load the rusty bunk beds aboard! I would have never imagined those beds would still be in use in 2015.
There is no doubt the research in Bimini has had tremendous and broad reach in academia; I think most of the scientists active in elasmobranch research have some connection to Doc an BBFS. I have been fortunate to stay heavily involved in BBFS and Doc’s program to this day. From helping with the first PIT tagging studies in 1990 and 1995 to an extended research trip to Brazil, it is impossible to measure what I learned from him over the years. But most of my fondest memories of Doc and BBFS come from teaching college courses there. Over the years, Doc and I have taught more than 60 courses in Bimini to more than 1,000 students. These included courses for undergraduate and graduate students from seven universities in four countries as well as courses we designed for school teachers and the general public.
Dr. Art Myrberg, a renowned ethologist, was Dr. Gruber’s doctoral advisor and my most influential undergraduate professor. Until his passing in 2005, Art regularly gave a series of guest lectures for many of our courses. The passion for science that Art possessed is clearly expressed also in Doc. To this day, among the students’ favorite parts of our courses is when Doc, kneeling in a shark pen while holding a juvenile lemon shark, regales them off-the-cuff stories about his life and research experiences. I regularly have students from these past courses call, e-mail or show up in my office and tell me what an effect those courses had on them. I am proud of the courses Doc and I have taught, and continue to teach, in Bimini, and I get regular reminders of how they have shaped the lives and careers of the students that took them.