David is using genetics to better understand three of Florida’s sharks. By comparing the status of blacktip, great hammerhead and nurse shark populations, he hopes to learn about how these iconic animals are faring.
Although I grew up far from the ocean in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I’ve been interested in sharks for as long as my family can remember. I loved sitting by the shark tank at Pittsburgh Zoo and I read every book about sharks that I could get my hands on. As soon as I was old enough, I learned to scuba-dive and got my certificate. I then spent five summers at the marine biology summer camp SeaCamp in the Florida Keys. Now I’m a graduate student at the University of Miami studying shark ecology and conservation and, between my research and my...
The goal of this project is to use molecular tools to determine the population status of three coastal shark species facing varying levels of fishing pressure in Florida, and to compare the population status of one species across management regimes.
Assessing the severity of declines and the degree of recoveries in shark populations has been identified as a research priority to help guide their conservation and management.
Over the past two decades, multiple independent research methods have identified severe and rapid population declines in many shark species. There have been significant efforts to reverse these declines and foster population recovery through implementation of various conservation policies. However, empirical evidence evaluating the efficacy of these policies is limited. Molecular tools offer a new avenue for assessing such policies.
The three species we have chosen to study have varying degrees of fisheries exploitation in the Florida Keys and throughout their range. Nurse sharks are not commercially exploited and their populations are thought to be high in coastal Florida. Blacktip sharks are commercially exploited, whereas great hammerhead sharks are thought to have declined severely due to by-catch and targeted fisheries. In recent years, the population trends of these species in areas where fishing has been restricted remains unknown. Samples have already been collected and microsatellite markers developed for each species.
The aims and objectives of this project are to:
To really understand how vulnerable sharks are to fishing in localised areas, we need to know the genetic variation across large areas. Dominic is investigating this in blacktip sharks, one of the dominant shark species caught in US Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico fisheries, to understand population connectivity across the Caribbean Sea and between these regions.
Silky sharks are second most harvested shark species on the planet and one of the most abundant in the shark finning industry. Their numbers have plummeted in the past 20 years. Derek is using an atlas of genomic diversity to work out which areas of the ocean are fished and to understand the origins of silky shark fins in the Hong Kong market, the centre of the shark-finning industry.
Sawsharks are some of the most threatened species in our seas; protecting them requires good information on where they move and what their populations look like. Jane and Paddy are using a variety of methods to improve our understanding of the conservation status and management of sawsharks threatened by fishing in south-eastern Australia.