Announcing our 2nd annual Summer Scholar Writing Competition! Win a scholarship to join our sharks and rays research course!
Here at Field School, we believe the opportunity to gain field experience and hands-on training in scientific research skills should be available to all interested students, regardless of income. We are excited to announce our second annual writing competition for a full scholarship to attend our summer sharks and rays field research course!
Entrants complete a short essay in addition to our course application, telling us about their passion for sharks and what they would hope to gain from participation in a field course. Winners will be given a full (grand prize) or partial (runner-up) scholarship to attend our hands-on elasmobranch summer research course.
During their week living and working aboard RV Garvin, students will be instructed in shark and ray biology, ecology, and conservation, and will get practical experience with a variety of field research techniques, including the use of BRUVs (Baited Remote Underwater Video), drum lines, gillnets, and long lines. Students will also get experience and training in how to work on a research vessel and safely restrain shark species for data collection.
The deadline for submission is March 23. Winners will be announced by April 9. The course runs from June 17-23, 2018. All food (with the exception of one inexpensive "dinner out"), housing, research activities, and transportation are included in the tuition for the course once students arrive at the R/V Garvin.
Get started on your submission here! We hope to see you in the field this summer!
On Wednesday our Assistant Director of Program Development Jake talked to the Hollywood Hills Saltwater Fishing Science and Social Club at their monthly meeting. Jake gave a brief talk about shark ecology and biology, while also covering the work he did for his masters thesis, which studied the effects of fishing capture stress on sharks. Club members asked lots of great questions, and were able to chat with Jake afterwards about their interactions and experiences with sharks as sport fishermen. Jake's masters research on shark stress physiology was recently published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science (read it here!).
We're always thrilled to have a chance to talk to people who love the ocean as much as we do. Many thanks to the Hollywood Hills Saltwater Fishing Science and Social Club for the invitation!
A recent study in Science included placing cameras on Polar Bears in the Beaufort Sea. While, no, we don’t see a lot of Polar Bears here in South Florida, they featured in our Executive Director Catherine’s dissertation, and we think they’re incredibly cool (and seriously under threat), so we thought we’d discuss this neat new research.
A lot of the challenges polar bears are facing come down to two main issues: habitat and energy budgets. In general, the more inhospitable to life a place is, the more specialized the adaptations are that the animals that live there need to survive. So polar bears need to eat a lot of calories to stay warm (though their blubber layer and specialized fur help). They also need to solve practical problems like getting enough fresh water in a sea ice environment (which they do in two cool ways—by eating mostly seal blubber, which breaks down to provide fresh water, and by having incredibly efficient kidneys). Changes in sea ice and climate are making it harder for polar bears to access (and capture) the seals they depend on for food. A polar bear that’s hunting successfully may catch and eat a seal every day or two—and if they do, they can expect to gain up to 40 pounds in as little as a week and a half. These resources help them survive arctic summers, when sea ice recedes and they no longer have access to seals as a food source. On the other hand, polar bears that aren’t having good hunting success can lose 40 pounds in a week and a half, putting them at risk of starvation (or at least a very lean and difficult summer season).
Polar Bears are one of the clearest examples of how changing climates can directly impact species that people care about--so enjoy this amazing polar bear footage, take a look at the study itself or the great coverage of it in The Atlantic, but also maybe consider supporting an organization that's working to address climate change.
R/V Garvin and crew just returned from a research expedition to the west side of Andros, in the Bahamas. The research trip transported researchers from Florida State University, the FSU Coastal & Marine Lab, and NOAA collaborated for a joint sawfish and sea turtle expedition, seeking to gather data about local populations of these amazing species. Although blustery winter weather limited the number of field days, researchers were still able to collect valuable scientific data from these remote tropical ecosystems. While the critically endangered smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) eluded the elasmobranch crew on this trip, their team successfully deployed and retrieved acoustic receivers, and were able to catch and sample over 80 sharks! Despite windy conditions, the sea turtle crew was also able to catch and sample numbers of both green (Chelonia mydas) and loggerhead (Caretta caretta) turtles! Overall, it was a great trip which reminded us why we always look forward to expeditions to this remote and beautiful area!
The Independent has coverage of a 2015 paper (which Catherine and Julia helped to co-author) arguing that the International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) should stop taking weight-based recreational fishing record bids for fish species which are threatened and endangered. It's a low cost, easy way to reduce fishing pressure on the largest and most ecologically important individuals from fish species at risk. Read the coverage, or check out the original paper here!
Garvin and her crew have just returned from a ten day expedition tracking sperm whales and setting acoustic receivers in Abaco, Bahamas! This project, in partnership with our friends at the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organization (BMMRO), is the first of several expeditions we'll be collaborating on to study this amazing population of whales. Before we left Abaco, some Bahamian elementary school students toured Garvin to learn about whales and life on a research vessel. It was a spectacular trip, and we can't wait to go back in April. Get more information about joining that trip here!
Our Director Catherine Macdonald successfully defended her PhD thesis "Wildlife Policy and Conservation: An Interdisciplinary Historical Perspective" this week. Thank you to everyone who came out to the public defense. The whole Field School family is incredibly proud of her! Check out pictures below of her defense, the team celebrating on the Garvin, and our pre-defense shark research day (because how else do you prep for your defense?)!
We are happy to report that the RV Garvin and the Field School crew have all made it through hurricane Irma safely. Thank you to all for your kindness and concern throughout. We are currently trying to secure temporary dockage while our home marina undergoes repairs. All our best to everyone affected by the storm. Stay tuned for more great things to come.
On days 4 and 5 of our recent Elasmobranch Field Research Skills Course we used gillnets and longlines to sample smaller sharks and rays. Our team emphasized techniques for maximizing animal wellbeing using these methods including modified gear and frequent checks. With the help of our students our team worked up and safely released multiple elasmobranchs including a bonnethead shark, multiple juvenile nursesharks, a southern stingray, and several blacktip and blacknose sharks.
Check out highlight pictures from the first few days of our recent Elasmobranch (sharks & rays) Field Research Skills Course. After an introduction to boat and freediving skills students got hands-on using different drumline set ups to fish in and offshore. Our team taught students to construct gear, take measurements and process samples for shark research. We were fortunate to see a juvenile scalloped hammerhead offshore released in excellent condition.
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