Research and Education
The shark section of the Florida Museum of Natural History's Ichthyology site provides a rich source of information on sharks and rays. The site covers a wide array of topics including biology and ecology, conservation and fishery management, shark attacks, and news. Biological species profiles, an interactive shark identification guide, and educational puzzles and games are among items that can be accessed on the web site. This informational web site allows interested viewers to come away with a more balanced view of elasmobranchs and measures needed to insure their management and survival.
FPSR biological research initiatives concerning sharks, skates and rays are numerous and diverse, ranging from studies on relative abundance and distribution, to systematics and evolutionary relationships. Life history studies on elasmobranchs are a major focus of research at the FPSR, where scientists are investigating age, growth, and reproduction of numerous species. Research projects also include basic and applied studies on the biology, ecology, and behavior of coastal and pelagic elasmobranchs. Opportunities are available for graduate and undergraduate students to become involved in ongoing shark research projects.
Project Shark Awareness educator workshops
Besides the many resources available in our Discover Fishes and Sharks section, the FPSR, in collaboration with Florida Sea Grant, has also instituted the program Project Shark Awareness. Project Shark Awareness is an innovative outreach program created to educate the public about the myths and realities of shark biology, behavior, and conservation. The targeted audience consists primarily of students at middle schools, high schools, youth organizations, and environmental centers.
Sawfish In Peril educator workshops
Sawfish in Peril was a classroom-based education initiative designed and implemented in a similar manner to Project Shark Awareness. Very little is known about sawfishes, which historically were very abundant in the tropics. Today, the U.S. distribution of the smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) is primarily restricted to the waters off the coast of southwest Florida. Although it is difficult to estimate the exact numbers of sawfish remaining in U.S. waters, it is likely that the population has declined at least 95% over the past century. As a result, the smalltooth sawfish has recently been listed for protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The largetooth sawfish (Pristis perotteti), once found in low numbers in waters ranging from Texas to Florida, likely has been extirpated from U.S. waters. Sawfish In Peril is intended to better inform the public concerning the plight and protection of sawfishes native to U.S. coastal waters, as well as the fate of sawfishes in general, which as a group are globally threatened. Workshops were held for Florida educators dependent upon external funding availability.
In addition to the above programs, we are currently distributing brochures on smalltooth sawfish detailing the conservation status as well as how to handle and release an accidentally captured sawfish. We will continue to distribute these brochures through marinas and tackle shops along the southwest coast of Florida as well as through educators in schools throughout the state. Also, sawfish signage is continuing to be posted in cooperation with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at appropriate marinas and boat launches in southwest Florida.
- AES 2011 Poster Presentation: An Evaluation of Ecotourism-Based Shark Feeding Practices
- AES 2011 Poster Presentation: An Investigation of Internet-Based Sale of Sawfish (Pristidae) Rostra
- AES 2011 Poster Presentation: Spatiotemporal Distribution of Smalltooth Sawfish (Pristis pectinata) in Florida Waters
Projects & Research
- Trans-Atlantic Pelagic Sharks Research Initiative (TAPS)
The focus of this research initiative has been on the pelagic species that are impacted by long-line fisheries, to study the biology, population dynamics, population genetics, movement patterns and habitat use of pelagic sharks in the Atlantic Ocean.
• Population Genetics
• Project Thresher
- The importance of deep mesophotic reefs to fish top predators
This study will provide a unique and comprehensive view of the importance of mesophotic reefs to fish including how they affect top predators.
- Elasmobranch Nursery Areas Within the Cedar Key Region of the Gulf of Mexico
This study will provide a unique and comprehensive view of a multi-species nursery area, along with competitive interactions that structure the community.
- Movements and Ecology of Fishes at Palmyra Atoll
Quantifying the effects of declining marine top predators on ecological roles of different trophic groups of fishes in a location with low levels of anthropogenic impacts.
- Movements and Filter Feeding Behavior of Manta Rays
We are complementing morphological and modeling studies of the filter feeding apparatus of manta rays, by using satellite telemetry to quantify manta movements, and locate areas of high manta ray abundance.
- Incorporating Habitat Use Information into Stock Assessment Models for Blue Sharks in the South Atlantic Ocean
The overall goal of this study is the incorporation of information on behavior and habitat utilization of blue sharks into stock assessment models in order to better assess the impact of the fishery in the blue shark population in the South Atlantic Ocean.
- Influence of Spatial and Environmental Factors in Shark Attacks
In this project, spatial models have been applied to shark attack data from the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) to examine their distribution and density in relation to environmental and spatial factors.
- Habitat Use and Behavioral Studies
The migration and movement of elasmobranchs found within the Indian River Lagoon Elasmobranch nursery areas within the Cedar Key region of the Gulf of Mexico
- Determining shark size from forensic analysis of bite damage
The ability to accurately predict body size from bite patterns is important for better understanding the ecological and behavioral underpinnings of shark bites/attacks on marine organisms, humans, and submarine equipment.
- Taxonomic Studies
A morphometric analysis of the genus Centrophorus in the Northwestern Atlantic
- Sexual Dimorphism
Sexual dimorphism in skate tooth morphology
- Fisheries Management
Regional variation in non-targeted bycatch composition in the U.S. Atlantic Bottom Longline Shark Fishery
The capture depth, time and hooked survival rate for bottom longline caught large coastal sharks
- Age and Growth
Age and growth of the great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran)
Reproduction of the sandbar shark, Carcharhinus plumbeus, in the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico
Reproduction of the great(Sphyrna mokarran) and scalloped (S. lewini) hammerhead sharks
- Diet and Fatty Acid Signatures
Influence of diet variation on fatty acid signatures of the Atlantic stingray, Dasyatis sabina.
- Fishery Independent Surveys
- Jaw Morphometrics
- Whale Shark Studies
Whale sharks in Belize