Blake’s project, which is a collaboration with NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center’s Gulf of Mexico Shark Pupping and Nursery Area Survey, aims to identify important habitats for baby coastal sharks. Blake’s focus is on blacknose sharks in the Florida Keys and Florida Bay, which is an area of overlap in the distribution of the Gulf and Atlantic populations. These populations are currently managed separately by federal agencies and Blake wants to find out how the two populations use these areas. He hopes that fishery managers will use the information he collects to make harvests sustainable, and that these habitats will be protected.
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 or 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.
Describe seasonal movement patterns of the two separately managed stocks of blacknose sharks in Florida waters. Determine the functional role of Florida Bay and the Florida Keys for blacknose sharks from both populations. Provide comprehensive movement, habitat use and phenology information for use in updated management strategies for blacknose sharks.
Outside the USA, The Bahamas is the only place where Critically Endangered smalltooth sawfish can reliably be found. Tristan wants to ensure that protection measures in The Bahamas are understood and enforced as far as sawfish are concerned to close the current gap between policy and the people. He’ll be using aerial surveys, sonar and BRUVs, combined with interviews that draw on local knowledge, to identify essential sawfish habitats that need protection. Engaging with the community through workshops and by training students and meeting with government, Tristan intends to advocate for smalltooth sawfish protection throughout The Bahamas’ territorial waters.
Steven and Kevin are using genetic techniques to understand how Caribbean reef shark populations are connected across the extent of their range. Populations of this Endangered shark are in decline generally, but where they are managed and there is effective protection, their numbers are stable. With the integration of the correct information, Steven and Kevin are convinced that we can give Caribbean reef sharks a better shot at recovery and population stabilisation. They will also explore any barriers to connectivity, looking to the future recruitment and recovery of these sharks.
With very little information available about Endangered sicklefin devil rays, their seasonal aggregations at sea mounts in the Azores give Sophie an opportunity to learn more about their lives. She will be collecting satellite-tracking data that show how they move in the Azores’ exclusive economic zone. The information she collects will be used to develop maps of how the rays are using the zone and to identify essential areas that multiple species use. With this information at hand, Sophie hopes her work can contribute to a network of marine protected areas.