Winter of the Shark: It Pays to Know People

This past weekend marked a new venture into shark-related field work.  For the better part of two months I’ve been fighting the good fight to keep ECU’s acoustic array up off of Cape Hatteras, and last Friday and Saturday finally managed to actually play with some sharks.  The goal, as with the Summer of the Shark field days, is to catch, ID, and measure as many juvenile sharks as possible, with the added responsibility of surgically implanting acoustic transmitters into individuals of key species.  This turned out to be the best couple field days I’ve had in my scientific career so far, and was a definite change from not catching a single damn shark over the summer.  The weekend’s tagging trip was also a shining example of why it pays to not alienate fishermen.

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Posted in fishing, gill nets, grad school, methods, North Carolina, research, sharks, Winter of the Shark | Leave a comment

Age and Growth

As you may have seen on Southern Fried Science, I and three other more-than-deserving bloggers have been pulled up to the big leagues.  I’m excited about this opportunity and looking forward to contributing to what has been one of my favorite places on the internet.  Be sure to check over there for marine science with a southern drawl from writers both new and old.

So what does this mean for Ya Like Dags?  Well, this blog will continue to exist as it has for 2.75 years now, as a remora attached to the larger fish that is Southern Fried Science.  And like the mighty dogfish, it will adapt.  While my “big-picture” posts on fisheries management and general-interest marine biology will go up at the parent blog, field work recaps and shorter, observational posts will continue to appear here.  So really, if you want the full Dags experience you’ll have to follow both blogs.

As always, thanks for reading and if you’re the rare reader that isn’t also regularly reading the parent blog, I hope you’ll join me there too.

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Happy Birthday to The Blog

Posting may have slowed a bit, but this blog has managed to stay up and swimming for three years as of yesterday.  In that time, I’ve made 290 posts, gotten 57,320 page views (roughly equivalent to a slow week at Deep Sea News, but I’ll take it).  There are big announcements to make regarding the blog in another week or so.  For now, thanks for reading, linking, retweeting, commenting, and otherwise justifying my online existence.  As thanks, enjoy this adorable baby dogfish picture.

You could think of this newborn dogfish as the blog, three years ago. I suppose that would make me the mother. Image from this great photo set at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

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Adventures in Acoustic Telemetry

One of the reasons posting has been so sparse lately is that I’ve been busy putting gear together, scheduling, breathlessly paying attention to the weather, and finally getting out on the water to work on the acoustic array off of Cape Hatteras.  This array has been maintained by grad students from the Rulifson Lab at ECU since 2009.  In addition to our own spiny dogfish, we’ve also picked up receivers deployed on sand tiger sharks, bull sharks, Atlantic sturgeon, and even great whites tagged in the waters of Cape Cod.  This line of equipment provides some very interesting data, but deploying and maintaining it is not always easy.

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Posted in diving, grad school, hurricane, North Carolina, photography, research | 2 Comments

Spiny Dogfish Ecotourism?

One of the biggest challenges in conservation has been making the continued existence of a species or environment worth more than its value as food, real estate, or any other consumptive use.  Like it or not, some policymakers and populations will not  be convinced without some kind of economic argument.  This is why ecotourism has been embraced by the environmental community, and it has lead to some big successes with shark conservation.  It’s no coincidence that many of the nations with the strongest shark protection measures also have robust shark diving industries.  Now, it looks like that most reviled and disrespected of sharks is getting a shot at charming divers.

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Posted in conservation, diving, elasmodiver, rhode island, spiny dogfish | 1 Comment


ResearchBlogging.orgA quick look around this blog will tell you that I’m very interested in fish eating other fish.  My Master’s research was on the feeding habits of spiny dogfish, and I’ve tried to keep up with the literature on shark-related predation ever since.  It turns out that the study of fish eating other fish can tell us a lot about other aspects of the fish’s life and how many we can potentially eat ourselves.  Here are some recent papers I found interesting, involving fish eating other fish, sharks eating fish, and sharks eating other sharks.  Even better, all of these papers are totally Open Access, so no need to pay up or use a school’s internet to read them.

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Posted in behavior, ecology, research blogging, sharks | 1 Comment

Big Moves Proposed in U.S. Shark Management

It’s been quite the week for sharks and the fisheries that target them.  First, ICCAT managed to disappoint on shark management (largely through the actions of Canada of all places) but finally started following scientific advice on bluefin tuna quotas.  Then, in better news, the European Union Parliament voted to close loopholes in their shark fishery management laws, requiring all sharks to be landed with their fins attached.  This not only effectively bans the practice of finning sharks at sea, but also makes them easier to identify at the dock so at-risk species can be more effectively monitored.  Meanwhile on our side of the Atlantic, the National Marine Fisheries Service has released a list of proposed new rules for Atlantic and Gulf coastal shark fisheries.  There is some very interesting stuff in there that may cause some big changes in shark fishery management.

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Posted in conservation, fisheries management, NOAA, sharks | 2 Comments

Misunderstanding and Abusing Ecosystem-based Management

That ever-reliable settler of internet arguments, Wikipedia, defines ecosystem-based management as “an environmental management approach that recognizes the full array of interactions within an ecosystem.”  At heart, this type of management is supposed to keep all the cogs of an ecosystem moving so we can continue to use the natural resources provided by it at a sustainable rate.  The key difficulty with ecosystem-based management is that it requires very precise knowledge of just how all the species involved interact, which in turn requires a lot of investment in research.  However, in the push to meet this lofty goal in natural resource management, it seems that some have taken to interpreting ecosystem-based approaches not as a way to keep the ecosystem functioning and providing resources, but as a way to manipulate it to favor our favorite resources.  In the world of fisheries management there have been a few recent developments that throw into question what kind of “ideal” ecosystem managers are going for.

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Posted in conservation, ecology, fisheries management, sharks, spiny dogfish, wtf | 3 Comments

Still Swimming

Well, that was an entirely unintentional month off.  Apologies to those checking for regular updates (especially since I hinted they would be coming in the last post… on October 18th).  I won’t dodge the issue: I’ve officially hit the rough part of being a grad student.  After having a reasonably smooth path to my Masters, it’s finally my turn to get my butt kicked.  I won’t go into details, but suffice to say it’s been a while since I’ve had a good “win,” and it’s given me a raging case of imposter syndrome.  As a result, my motivation to post dropped recently.

Which was stupid.  My problems are ultimately “first-world problems.”  Rough patches happen to everyone and are practically a requirement for getting through grad school.  The only way to get through them is to continue finding ways to enjoy the time spent riding them out.  This blog is a part of my grad school/young scientist experience that I not only enjoy, but actually have some control over.  With that in mind, I’m forcing myself to start regularly putting stuff up here again.  Expect at least two new posts this week, and that’s a pace I will try to keep up going forward.  I have a pretty good backlog of papers and management issues I’ve been meaning to write about, as well as an overdue field work recap or two.

This concludes my public apology and expression of feelings.  Keep checking in for more small shark science.  I may have something new up as soon as this evening…

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So That’s Where the Sharks Have Been… UPDATED

Yes, it’s been a while and yes, I do have more Summer of the Shark updates (and yes, this “summer project” has gotten pretty far into autumn).  To get back into the swing of things, here’s a quick post on an interesting sighting I made while fishing at Bogue Inlet Pier last weekend.  While reading this, keep in mind that this spot is infuriatingly not within my study area.

Update 10/19 – looks like I’m not the only one seeing dusky sharks at Emerald Isle.  Details below the fold.

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Posted in conservation, fishing, mystery fish, North Carolina, sharks | 1 Comment