Carolyn is interested in the potential impact of rising ocean temperatures on the ability of epaulette sharks to successfully reproduce. Her work to date has already investigated how higher temperatures might affect the development of the embryos and hatchlings of these small, egg-laying sharks found across Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Now, her project is focusing on how thermal stress affects adults and their ability to breed. Using portable ultrasound technology, and based around Heron Island, her research will bring new insights into egg-case development and hormone concentrations in our changing oceans.
Originally from upstate New York, I found my passion for fish biology during my undergraduate Honours research at the University of New England in Maine. There I was privileged to conduct physiological research on the locally threatened Atlantic sturgeon and a variety of shark and skate species. I am currently a co-tutelle PhD candidate between the School for the Environment at the University of Massachusetts Boston and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. I spent the first half of my PhD working with the...
My research aims to determine the impacts of ocean warming on the seasonality and success of epaulette shark reproduction as a potential indicator for other egg-laying tropical sharks.
With many species of sharks and their relatives threatened worldwide, successful reproduction will be a key component to recovering many populations in the future. However, ocean temperatures are slowly rising, and we currently do not fully understand how this environmental change may impact reproduction. My research uses a well-studied species — the epaulette shark — to conduct a first assessment of the direct impacts of ocean warming scenarios on reproduction.
Defining life history characteristics of elasmobranchs over centuries of research has been pivotal data to understand underlying biology as well as facilitating proper management and conservation. Within life history characteristics, reproductive biology and endocrinology is a generally lacking field for the majority of elasmobranchs. This study aims to use a proposed indicator species and a new combination of methods to predict how climate change will shift reproductive timing and success in the future. These reproductive models are crucial for implementing the recovery of elasmobranchs worldwide in our rapidly changing environment.
My research has two main objectives. First, I am reassessing the reproductive biology and physiology of epaulette sharks at Heron Island from previous research conducted two decades ago. I hope to determine if reproduction has changed over the last twenty years and to create a detailed profile of the reproductive cycle in wild sharks. Second, with short experiments at the field station, I am determining the maximum temperature tolerance of this species across life stages (i.e. juveniles and reproductively active adults). I expect that, for example, females undergoing egg-encapsulation will have a lower temperature tolerance compared to immature and non-reproducing sharks, as this reproductive process is taxing and likely reduces the energy available to cope with increased water temperature. Findings from these objectives will indicate if reproduction has already shifted in epaulette sharks at Heron Island, and allow us to predict how it may continue to change with ocean warming in the future.
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.