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The Bimini people lab

By Joseph Nolan, 30th September 2020

When I first learned about the Bimini Sharklab, I read through all of the lab’s research and was fascinated by everything. As I looked through different labs and scientists within the shark research world, there seemed to be an endless amount of connections to the Sharklab. The more that I learned, the more the idea of learning to conduct shark research there became my dream. Fast forward a few years, and I receive my acceptance email to be an intern for 6 months. In the months leading up to my time in Bimini, all I could think of was the sharks that I would be working with and the research that I would help conduct. I had no idea that after my internship was over, the sharks and the research would fall short in comparison to the best aspect of the lab: the people.

Do not misunderstand me; the sharks that I worked with and the research that I participated in was the stuff of dreams. I was able to swim with Caribbean reef sharks and great hammerheads, witness the placement of satellite tags on tiger sharks, tag and observe the behaviour of countless juvenile lemon sharks, and participate in shark workups on several different shark species.

Preparing to insert a PIT tag into a mature nurse shark during a scientific workup. Photo by Sophie Hart | © Bimini Biological Field Station Foundation - SharkLab.

Although I will never forget these experiences, I will hopefully have a long and successful career working with sharks. What will always be completely unique to Bimini is the friendships that I found at the lab and the memories that I made. I will never forget unknowingly eating potatoes that were dug out of the sink drain, or all of the laughs that we shared while building our pens. I loved staying up all night long talking, laughing, and dressing up to re-enact sawfish workups during the annual PIT survey. Whenever we got caught in a downpour, we would pass the time by yelling at the storm or trying to build a fort on the shore to use as shelter. Situations that some people may not have enjoyed were the ones that really brought us together. Spending every waking second with your co-workers can be a recipe for disaster in some professions, but at the Sharklab it made for some of the greatest memories of my life.

The lab was more than just a place to have fun. Many people at the lab inspired me to continue on the path of shark research as I observed their dedication to their work. Every time I spoke with CEO Matt, principal investigators Vital and Clemency, or the visiting scientists that came through, it made me more determined to work on research of my own.
These stories barely scratch the surface of the incredible impact everyone at the lab had on me. I made some friends that I will have for life, and that is what made my time at the lab the greatest that it could have been. It has been a few months since I left Bimini, and at some point during every day since I have wished that I could return. My fellow former-interns and I must push forwards but I am excited byClemency the prospect of working with any of them again. The Bimini Sharklab is a truly wonderful place, and I cannot wait to see if my career takes me back.

Lab manager James prepares to take blood from a large nurse shark (G.cirratum). Photo by Sophie Hart | © Bimini Biological Field Station Foundation - SharkLab

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