SRC Program Questions

We have many opportunities to participate in SRC Programs depending on your age and interests. Learn more by exploring the Participate section on the website. We are not currently hiring for any staff positions.

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SRC provides a platform for students to conduct research while enrolled in graduate school at the University of Miami. Graduate students interested in getting involved with SRC should contact our Director. This resource may also be helpful. For more information on the field experiences available to graduate students, please visit: the Participation section of this website.

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Masters & Ph.D.

Thank you so much for your interest in supporting our mission. You can make a secure online contribution by visiting the donation page of our website and following the on-screen instructions. We also have an online store where proceeds from purchasing cool shark apparel goes to supporting our program. Please check it out at:, or check out our field shirts. Contact us with any questions about donations at

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Donate Online

Thank you for your interest in participating in SRC’s educational field research opportunities. We are always happy to connect with possible education partner organizations! Please email our lab manager at to discuss further.

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School Trips

While we would love to bring you out with us, we are not able to coordinate directly to schedule trips with with individual high school students or accept interns under 18 years of age. Instead, we work to organize trips with high school groups, classes, and clubs by coordinating with supervising teachers. Feel free to talk to your teachers about organizing a group, and then ask them to contact us at

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School Trips

We offer a wide array of educational resources. For our comprehensive directory of virtual learning resources, please explore the link (right).

  1. Use our free High school curriculum
  2. Track our sharks online
  3. Use SRC scientific data in class research projects
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Virtual Learning

Yes. We would love to have your company aboard for a custom-tailored Citizen Science experience. For more information on corporate expeditions, please contact

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Citizen Science

We offer many avenues for staying in touch, and would love to connect with you on social media:

Shark Questions

A shark is a fish, although sharks are different from other kinds of fish in important ways.

Cartilaginous Skeletons

Unlike bony fish (also called “teleost” fish) sharks are cartilaginous. (We have cartilage too–in our noses and ears, or in our joints to cushion them and help them flex. There are benefits to being cartilaginous: cartilage is lighter and more flexible than bone. Some sharks are flexible enough to bite their own tails! However, there are also potential downsides—our bones play an important role in protecting our vital organs.

Dermal Denticles

Instead of scales like most fish, sharks are covered with placoid scales called dermal denticles. Each denticle is tooth-like in structure, containing a “pulp” of nerves covered by a crystalline structure of chemical called apatite, which helps make shark skin tough and strong. This tough skin helps protect sharks from parasites, predation, and injury. Denticles can also make sharks more hydrodynamic by funneling water away from the body, reducing drag.

Shark Buoyancy Control

Most fish have what is called a “swim bladder,” a gas-filled organ that helps compensate for their weight and maintain them at neutral or near-neutral buoyancy in the marine environment. Sharks do not. Instead, sharks rely on their large and oily liver to help them remain buoyant. Sharks are also helped to remain buoyant by their lighter cartilaginous skeletons, by the hydrodynamic properties of their body shape and fins (like a glider), and by their dermal denticles!

Ancestors of our modern sharks appeared on earth around 450 million years ago, which means shark ancestors had already been swimming around for more than 200 million years before the first dinosaur walked the earth. They have survived at least five major extinction events that many or most other vertebrate species did not. Fossily sharks are fascinating but hard to study, because many fossil shark species are identified based on as little as one tooth. Cartilage does not fossilize as easily as bone and so the fossil record for sharks is often incomplete.

Hominids, in contrast, date back no further than 4.5 million years – which means that even counting pre-human hominids, we have been on the plant for only one percent of the time in which sharks have swum in the sea.

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Masters & Ph.D.

There are more than 540 species of sharks (and more are discovered all the time). Most shark species pose no threat to humans, and bear little resemblance to the large predatory sharks people think of when they hear the word “shark”. They are incredibly diverse in appearance, ecological function and behavior. They are found in oceans all over the world—there are sharks that can live in fresh water, sharks that are pink, sharks that can glow, even sharks that live under arctic ice!

According to the most recent data from the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), which creates and maintains the IUCN “Red List” of threatened species, 37% of shark and ray species are evaluated as Threatened, Endangered, or Critically Endangered. Based on this estimate, sharks and rays are the second-most threatened group of vertebrates on the planet, after amphibians.

Sharks are caught by humans for harvest, or sometimes by accident when people are trying to catch other things (which is called “bycatch”). Targeted shark fisheries may seek out and capture sharks for their meat, fins, or sometimes jaws, skin, or liver oil. Some recreational fishers catch and kill sharks as trophies (in contrast to catch-and-release fishing, which tries to release sharks in healthy condition). Sharks may also be impacted by humans indirectly through threats like habitat loss, pollution, and fishing-driven declines in the species sharks rely on for food.

Data does not exist to exactly quantify the number of sharks humans catch each year. One study, however, estimated the global catch of sharks at around 100 million sharks per year.

The risk is already extremely small. The average American has a 1 in 5 chance of dying from heart disease, a 1 in 7 chance of dying from cancer, and a 1 in 3.8 million chance of being killed by a shark. However, there are a few basic common-sense strategies that swimmers and surfers use to reduce their chances of encountering a shark. Try to remain relatively close to shore and to other people, and swim during the day and not around dawn or dusk when sharks tend to be most actively hunting. Try to avoid areas near river mouths, as water there tends to be murky and some sharks like to hang out there, hoping a free meal will wash out to sea. Do not swim or dive in areas of unusually high fish density where sharks are likely to be present feeding. Remember, you want to make it as easy as possible for a shark to identify what you are: a human being, not something they consider food. These are some suggestions gleaned from our years of knowledge, but SRC is not responsible for your safety. You are at your own risk when entering in the ocean.

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Shark Attack File

One of the leading theories is that most shark bites are the result of mistaken identity. It has been suggested that the outline of a surfboard being paddled by neoprene-wearing surfers looks an awful lot like a seal from below or the palm of a human hand or the sole of a human foot can easily be mistaken for the white belly of a distressed fish. The evidence suggests that most shark bites are accidents, where the shark mistakes a human (or part of a human) for something else. Some bites also occur when human swimmers or surfers accidentally step on a small shark resting on the bottom.

While some concerns have been raised that shark feeding dives might cause sharks to associate humans with food, there is no scientific evidence that shark ecotourism increases risk of shark attack. Research is ongoing into how to prevent ecotourism from disrupting natural shark behaviors like feeding and migration, and protect sharks from behavioral changes that might put them at risk. Research suggests that responsible and well-regulated shark ecotourism can be a tool for educating people about sharks and promoting shark conservation.

Research Questions

Every aspect of our data gathering process is designed to minimize harm to animals (our research subjects). We use special fishing and tagging gear intended to reduce stress and promote shark safety. Please explore the Animal Welfare section of the website to learn more about the protocols our team follows to promote shark welfare.


The Shark Research & Conservation Program uses special fishing units called drumlines (composed of a single weight and attached hook & line) that promotes shark vitality when fishing for sharks. The gear permits species which are ram ventilaters (need to keep moving to breathe) to swim in big circles around the weight when caught. The ability to swim relatively freely can also minimize stress-related C02 and lactic acid buildup in shark muscle.

Circle Hooks

Circle hooks can help reduce negative outcomes for captured sharks over other hook types, most notably J-hooks. Circle hooks are designed to catch in the shark’s jaw, instead of catching on the shark’s stomach or gills, which can otherwise cause injury. The hooks can also more easily be removed from the jaw, leaving a very superficial wound that heals quickly. Circle hooks help us selectively target sharks, reducing unwanted bycatch of other species. We recommend circle hooks not only for research-related capture, but for recreational fishermen practicing catch-and-release fishing who want to improve animal welfare.

Workup Process

Captured sharks are brought onto a specialized platform on the back of our research vessel, where a saltwater pump is immediately placed in the sharks’ mouth. This allows oxygenated water to flow over its gills throughout the shark’s brief work-up. During data collection, sharks have a small muscle biopsy taken (recaptured sharks demonstrate that the biopsy site is completely healed within just a few weeks), are tagged with a spaghetti tag in their dorsal fin (where they have few nerve endings and blood vessels), have blood drawn, are measured, have a small clip of their fin cartilage taken, and are released.

Historically, the traditional method for gathering the types of data we collect was to kill animals. Although capture may still be a stressful process for sharks, our research focuses on minimizing shark stress and promoting survival. Our research methods are overseen and approved by the University of Miami Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

Sharks have significantly fewer nerve endings than humans do. Humans have developed tremendously complex nervous systems with many millions of nerves as part of the process of evolution, these nerves “teach” us—through pain—what we should and shouldn’t do (don’t touch a hot stove). However, this level of sensitivity to temperature, pressure or pain has not been necessary for sharks. While we can’t say what a shark feels, we do know that they do not react to potentially painful stimuli the way mammals like humans do.

Tags allow scientists to study everything from the growth to the migratory and residency patterns of sharks. This data can be used to identify areas that are critical for shark mating, pupping, and feeding as well as locations where sharks are vulnerable to fishing. Better data can help policy makers implement effective management strategies that will improve conservation for threatened shark species.