Eighteen students in the Museum’s Upward Bound IMPACT program had the adventure of a lifetime, not to mention first-hand experience with nature’s food chain, when they went on an overnight expedition in August sponsored by the University of Miami’s Center for Latin American Studies. They joined the University’s R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation team at Broad Key research field station, and worked with world-renowned shark researcher Neil Hammerschlag, who studies local shark populations around South Florida. Students researched the habitats of smaller fish when large predators enter the area, learned about migration patterns of sharks and sea turtles throughout the waters off Florida and Latin America, and together they caught (just for temporary observation and tagging) hammerhead, lemon, and nurse sharks. Over the two days, students also spent time snorkeling and kayaking on the reef and along mangrove forests, collecting samples and observing natural marine habitats. As with any experience-of-a-lifetime though, especially in nature, some things are a trade-off. Just as students were observing sharks and marine habitats, all of the mosquitoes in the area were endlessly conducting their own experiments on the student researchers. But the lack of civilization and the soothing sounds and silence of the environment more than made up for it. It was an experience they’ll never forget. Check out what the students have to say about it:
- A research scientist called me up to go and pull in a bait line. I pull and pull and at the other end waiting was a hammerhead shark! I had just pulled in a hammerhead shark! As soon as the shark was secured aboard the boat the scientists went to work and quick. A hammerhead shark is rare and they want to work as quickly as possible as to not disturb it as much. The hammerhead shark was to recieve a satalite tag meaning that tag would allow the shark to be tracked by satellite. –Marlenni
- The nurse shark has rough skin which makes it easier to get shark burn which is when your skin rubs against a shark’s skin the wrong way creating a peeling and soreness of the area. The first place where we caught a nurse shark was by the mangroves because it was a baby and still needed protection from large animals that could eat it. The shark trip was fun other than shark tagging too, because of all of the other marine animals that I was able to see. There was not anything I would say to improve the trip but a longer time period to stay. –Taylor
The R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program has now released a video from the IMPACT expedition. Get ready to join the adventure.