Blake’s project aims to identify what factors drive overlap in two populations of blacknose sharks that are managed separately. Gulf and Atlantic populations of blacknose sharks are both found in the Florida Keys and Florida Bay, where Blake will be tracking their movements to find out how and when these sharks move their areas, and what environmental factors might be driving this. This should help identify important blacknose shark habitats, and help inform fisheries managers to help ensure the sustainable harvest of both populations.
My family instilled in me a sense of stewardship for natural resources, especially marine and aquatic ones, from a young age. Family outings always included some element of the outdoors. We moved around relatively frequently as I grew up. This allowed me to observe a wide array of unique environments, such as the impressive coral reefs of the Red Sea. The sheer, 40-metre (132-foot) drop-offs smothered in vibrantly coloured corals at Ras Mohamed National Park, at the southern point of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, served as an exceptional example of the beauty that can be found beneath the surface of the...
Acoustic telemetry and temperature patterns will be used to delineate drivers of movement and habitat use, as well as migration corridors, for blacknose sharks along the Florida Vicariance Zone. The findings from this research will shed light on potential spatiotemporal drivers of population discrimination between Gulf and Atlantic stocks.
The most recent evaluation for the stock status of blacknose sharks revealed a data deficiency for the Gulf stock and an overfished Atlantic stock that is experiencing overfishing (but these reports are nearing a decade old). With no published information regarding the movement ecology of blacknose sharks, there is a clear knowledge gap, especially given that the two stocks exhibit spatial overlap along the Florida Vicariance Zone. My research aims to address this data deficiency.
Blacknose sharks have received very little research attention aside from genetic and life history studies, and management measures are based on these data along with fishery-dependent catch data. This species is federally managed in US waters and are separated into two populations – Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic – with the Florida Keys serving as a barrier to genetic mixing (labeled the Florida Vicariance Zone). While certain ecological characteristics such as reproductive cycles differ in these populations, individuals of both populations, determined by genetics, are found to use areas in the Florida Keys and Florida Bay. Hypotheses to explain these observations suggest that sexually mature individuals demonstrate philopatry, or a tendency to use particular areas (in this case, for mating and pupping), that are spatially explicit between populations. So, in the meantime, these individuals roam as they please, exhibiting sympatry without gene mixing along the Florida Vicariance Zone. I will be acoustically tagging blacknose sharks in this area in an attempt to describe their movement ecology and migration corridors for the respective populations, with the hope of elucidating the importance of the Florida Keys and Florida Bay to the two populations. These data will be extremely useful in conjunction with published genetic studies for the evaluation of current management measures, as well as contribute to the understanding of a cosmopolitan yet understudied species.
Demian’s team is developing tools that help border control officers identify illegal shark products. His project is sifting through ‘rhino ray’ DNA sequences looking for differences in code between the guitarfishes, giant guitarfishes and wedgefishes nicknamed for their pointy snouts (and Endangered status). Months of testing will help ensure only rhino ray DNA is targeted before the team flies to Hong Kong to help officials use a portable DNA tester. This project will add to the arsenal currently being used to identify illegal shark fins moving across borders, and help stop the trafficking of ‘rhino ray’ fins.
Aristide created a citizen science platform and mobile app for fishers across Cameroon’s 400 km coastline to record sightings of sharks, rays and marine life. These photos are uploaded to iNaturalist where they are identified and will serve to create Cameroon’s first elasmobranch atlas. Together with his team, Aristide ensures data are being uploaded, visits fish landing sites to assess bycatch and measure sharks, and scours the beaches to check for strandings and sea turtle nests. He collects tissue samples of threatened species in these visits that can give more insights into the diversity, population size and structure of vulnerable sharks.
Ali is collaborating with researchers across North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean to develop support tools for guitarfish conservation. As an advocate, much of her work is completed behind a computer and locked in meetings, but her goal is to help bring awareness to the threatened status of guitarfish in the Mediterranean. The current Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust, Ali represents a large number of regional partners to engage with governments, develop new resources and coordinate guitarfish conservation activities.