Overview of Shark Research & Conservation at UM

Directed by Dr. Neil Hammerschlag, the Shark Research & Conservation Program (SRC) at the University of Miami conducts cutting-edge shark research while also inspiring scientific literacy and environmental ethic in youth through unique hands-on field research experiences.

Every year, SRC brings out thousands of people, mostly school-children, on our research boats to survey, sample, tag and study sharks. Opportunities are especially made available for under-served populations in the sciences, such as females through our F.I.N.S. Program. To impact an even larger audience from across the globe, SRC continues to use a variety of online education tools, including social media, blogs, educational videos and, online curricula.

SRC’s science focuses broadly on understanding the effects of environmental change on the behavioral ecology and conservation biology of sharks in a human‐altered world. The SRC Team is comprised of University of Miami faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students and volunteers. Research faculty advise the graduate students, who then act as mentors to the undergraduate students, who in turn serve as mentors to the participating school-children.

Dr. Neil Hammerschlag and the SRC Program reside in the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, recognized as one of the top collegiate programs for marine research in the world.

Our work is composed of four overlapping focal areas:

Science – Education – Conservation – Technology

The core tenet is the science, with the others branching out and building upon it.

From a broader educational perspective, the SRC Program address two major needs in the United States and abroad: (1) a lack of engaging science education opportunities that inspire youth to learn STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills and adopt conservation attitudes and behaviors, and (2) a lack of knowledge and awareness about marine ecology and conservation, particularly in relation to shark species. To meet these challenges and bring about the desired change, SRC engages in numerous activities including community outreach, marine-based field, lab, and virtual research experiences and online educational activities.

A Proven Model

Since its inauguration in 2009, SRC has supported student education in STEM, citizen science and outreach. For example, between 2009 and 2017, SRC brought over 8,000 citizen scientists, mostly school children, into the field to participate in shark research, including participants from top-ranked private schools, those in low-income neighborhoods and even “last chance” alternative learning facilities for juvenile offenders.

The SRC Research Team is currently investigating a variety of research areas, which continue to generate publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Strong collaborative efforts continue to be made across the disciplines to advance marine conservation.

“Because the Shark Research & Conservation Program lies squarely in the intersection between science and policy, it will provide students across the University of Miami, and high school students, including those in underserved populations, with access to field experiences that will foster intellectual curiosity and help to position them as effective environmental leaders for the future.”
— Donna Shalala, Former President, University of Miami

“There is nothing more satisfying than helping to create positive change, whether it is through science or inspiring the next generation ocean ambassadors.”
– Dr. Neil Hammerschlag Director, Shark Research & Conservation Program
Between 2009 and 2017, SRC brought over 8,000 citizen scientists into the field to participate in shark research.