The first official day of talks wrapped up today, followed by a pretty sweet social at the Roger Williams Park Zoo. I’ll run down some of the more interesting stuff I heard about today in relatively short form below.
-The shark talks today were dominated by stable isotope analysis. It seems like every time I talk about my thesis in a professional setting someone asks if I’ve tried stable isotope analysis. I know the infamous David is trying to get this type of analysis down to a fine enough scale to ID prey species, but right now it’s just not at that level (he’s working on it though). In my opinion it still really needs to be validated by actually looking at the gut contents (by using gastric lavage, perhaps?). Still, it’s interesting what can be found out by looking at stable isotopes, and at least one talk actually used this method to improve on a classic piece of literature on shark trophic levels.
-My obsession with New England great whites was well-fed thanks to a talk by Toby Curtis, who used previously recorded data from fisheries logbooks, personal communications, and published literature to paint a picture of Carcharodon carcharias in the American Atlantic coast. There is tantalizing evidence supporting the theory that southern New England may be a pupping ground for great whites, and also that when overwintering off of Florida they may be preying upon Northern Right Whales (and also dolphins and fish, since that whale supply is quickly drying up). This talk got me pretty sufficiently geeked-out.
-Another interesting talk was given by Gulak (I’m typing this in the lobby where the internet is, and don’t have the schedule handy to get his first name). Basically this was an attempt to pop-up tag a bunch of sharks in the Gulf of Mexico. They only successfully tagged a single oceanic whitetip and bigeye thresher, but saw some interesting results from both. Both appear to hug the edge of the continental shelf within the Gulf, and the tag on the thresher managed to stay on long enough to possibly show how long this species takes to reset back into normal behavior after being tagged (surprisingly long, it turns out). Very preliminary data, but still cool to see some science in action.