Shark Tagging with South Broward High School


By Grace Roskar, SRC Intern

The morning of February 12th, 2016 was a beautiful day for the SRC team, the Diver’s Paradise captain and crew, and students of South Broward High School to set out for a day of shark tagging. We also had two citizen scientists on board, ten-year-old Tristan and his father Jivan from North Carolina. South Broward has been a participating school group of SRC for several years, and after enduring traffic from the Miami Boat Show, the group was anxious to board the boat and embark on a day of science, sharks, and sunshine.

The waters were calm as we motored out to a certain location among the group of shallow tidal flats known as the Safety Valve in Biscayne Bay. Drumlines were prepared with tuna or jack for bait and set out to let soak for an hour. Many of the South Broward students had been on an SRC trip before, but they were still eager to listen to trip leader Jake’s demonstration of the workup process for a shark. They were already knowledgeable about different shark species, as well as how they breathe by swimming to actively force water through their mouths and over their gills, allowing for the uptake of oxygen, in a process known as ram ventilation.

Trip leader and SRC Master’s student Jake tells students about the workup process for a shark and uses Sharky, the stuffed shark, to demonstrate the procedures

Trip leader and SRC Master’s student Jake tells students about the workup process for a shark and uses Sharky, the stuffed shark, to demonstrate the procedures

After an hour had passed, we set out to retrieve the first set of ten drumlines. On one line was a blacknose shark, which is a smaller species that SRC does not encounter often. This blacknose was a male and about 119 centimeters long, or a little shorter than 4 feet. Due to its small size, Jake and Rock brought the shark directly onto the back of the boat instead of setting up our large platform, and it was safely secured on deck. Next, our citizen scientists and South Broward students assisted the SRC team with a nictitating membrane test to test the shark’s stress levels, several length measurements, taking a sample of the dorsal fin, and inserting a dart tag into the shark’s dorsal fin. Rock took morphological measurements and Hannah swiftly drew blood from the caudal vein of the shark, to be used for several different measurements such as glucose and hematocrit levels, which is valuable data for Jake’s ongoing Master’s thesis. After a quick workup, students were able to take a few moments to touch the shark and feel its dermal denticles, which are scales that are basically modified teeth, as dermal denticles means “small skin teeth.”

A South Broward student quickly pumps seawater into the shark’s eye to watch for its ‘eyelid’, called a nictitating membrane, to pop up. This reflex is a possible measure of stress levels in the animal.

A South Broward student quickly pumps seawater into the shark’s eye to watch for its ‘eyelid’, called a nictitating membrane, to pop up. This reflex is a possible measure of stress levels in the animal.

The blacknose shark was quickly and safely released, and we moved on to set out to retrieve the rest of the drumlines. There were no more sharks on the lines, so they were set out for two more sets. While pulling up one line, Jake felt tension for a moment, thinking it could be a shark, but then the line was released and the tension dissipated. It is possible there was a shark on the line but was not hooked completely and was able to get away. Even with some South Broward students choreographing their own “shark dance” in hopes of good luck, after thirty lines, we had only caught the one shark. With hopes still high, we had time to set out five more lines, but trip leader Jake and Captain Eric decided to try a new spot. We motored closer to Stiltsville, a group of houses built on stilts in a different part of the general area of the Safety Valve. We quickly set out five more baited drumlines and let them soak for about forty-five minutes. To our delight, another blacknose was hooked! It was carefully brought onto the back deck of the boat and secured by Jake and Rock. Our trip guests helped again with the nictitating membrane test, measuring the shark, taking a fin clip, and tagging the shark. Hannah was able to successfully draw blood once more and I helped with morphological measurements, including the span of the shark, clasper measurements, and taking pictures of its fins to be digitized for scale to see how sharks grow over time.

Tristan and Jivan, our citizen scientists for the day, help insert a spaghetti tag into the sharks dorsal fin.

Tristan and Jivan, our citizen scientists for the day, help insert a spaghetti tag into the sharks dorsal fin.

After thirty-five lines, the team and students were elated and grateful to have caught two blacknose sharks, which is a more rare occasion on the SRC boat! With beautiful weather all day, it was overall an exciting day on the water with South Broward High School and our citizen scientists. Although many South Broward students had been on a trip with us before, their excitement to learn about and see these apex predators never faltered. We were honored to have Tristan and Jivan onboard with us and were grateful for their help throughout the day. The SRC team gathered valuable data from the two blacknose sharks and we hope that South Broward will come out with us again soon!




Shark Tagging with Our Lady of Lourdes Acadamy

By Christopher Brown, RJD Intern

As dawn broke on Saturday, November 7, 2015, eight sharky RSMAS students and one fearless lab manager awoke to the call of the sea. The RJD team assembled at Diver’s Paradise in Crandon Marina at 8:00am to begin loading the boat with the shark-friendly fishing gear that is utilized to conduct tagging and sampling procedures. Everyone was in a great mood because the forecast for the day called for perfect fishing weather. Once the high school students from Our Lady of Lourdes Academy arrived, brief introductions were made, and the crew set out for an eventful day of shark tagging!

As Captain Nick Perni set course for fishing grounds south of Key Biscayne, and the RJD crewmembers cut bait and prepared the drumlines for deployment, lab manager Christian Pankow briefed the high school group on how the fishing equipment is deployed and retrieved throughout an entire day of fieldwork. Even though Our Lady of Lourdes Academy are old hands at tagging and sampling procedures, they were surprised to learn that fish traps are now being utilized by the RJD team to investigate fish morphologies and population assemblages associated with the presence or absence of shark populations. The two fish traps were deployed south of Stiltsville, a group of wood stilt houses positioned on the edge of Biscayne Bay along the sand banks of the Safety Valve. Then, after watching RJD Intern Samantha Owen demonstrate how to safely and properly cast out the baited circle hook and line, Our Lady of Lourdes Academy students helped deploy the remaining nine drumlines.

While the lines “soaked” for an hour, the students assisted with taking environmental measurements, including the salinity and dissolved oxygen content of the surrounding ocean water. Lab manager Christian Pankow gave another briefing to Our Lady of Lourdes Academy to prepare them for the participatory day of shark research, which would include fin clips, measuring, and collecting vital tissue samples and data. However, the briefing was cut short when a blacktip shark was spotted breaching around the first research buoy, which meant a shark was on the line! The first group of students assembled to assist with data collection as the RJD team sprung into action. The 1.46 meter (4.79 ft) blacktip shark, which was one of the smallest sharks of the day, was swiftly and carefully secured onto the stern of the boat and the water pumped was inserted into the shark’s mouth. RJD graduate student Jake Jerome collected a blood sample from the caudal vein and Our Lady of Lourdes Academy students assisted with taking morphological measurements and inserting a dart tag into the shark’s dorsal fin. After completing a successful workup, the blacktip shark was released back into the water in great condition. The breaching blacktip shark was an amazing sight to see and was only the beginning of a fantastic day of shark tagging.


The largest shark of the day was a 2.00 meter (6.56 ft) great hammerhead that was caught while pulling in the second round of drumlines. Great hammerhead sharks are easily stressed and become quite delicate when kept on the line for an extended period of time, so the students watched from the top deck as the RJD team worked up the shark in less than four minutes. RJD graduate student Jake Jerome was able to collect a blood sample from the caudal vein of the great hammerhead for his ongoing Masters’ research, and the crew worked efficiently enough to conduct an entire workup procedure before the great hammerhead needed to be returned to the water.


In total, the RJD team landed a 2.00 meter (6.56 ft) great hammerhead shark, a 1.67 meter (5.47 ft) nurse shark, a 1.25 meter (4.10 ft) black nose shark, and six blacktip sharks ranging from 1.18-1.71 meters (3.87-5.61 ft). Each shark was swiftly and carefully brought to the boat and secured on the platform for a brief sampling and tagging procedure. It is safe to say that Our Lady of Lourdes Academy students are now well practiced in tagging, sampling, and morphological measurement techniques. One of the procedures performed by the students included the nictitating membrane reflex test. The nictitating membrane is a clear, inner eyelid that protects the eye of a shark during feeding events. The reflex of the nictitating membrane is one visual factor that can be used to determine the stress impairment of sharks.


After the remaining drumlines were brought on board, the crew finished the day by checking the fish traps set earlier in the morning. A series of morphological measurements and images was taken of each of the several bony fish caught in the fish traps for future analysis. Overall, the RJD team had a fantastic day out on the water with Our Lady of Lourdes Academy. We hope they enjoyed the opportunity to participate in a day filled with exceptional scientific research and education, and we cannot wait for them to join us again on future shark tagging trips.


Shark Tagging with Pine Crest School

By William Evans, RJD Intern

I woke up on Thursday morning and saw that it was slightly overcast and drizzling. For more people, this would be a sign of a gloomy day inside but for me and the rest of the RJD crew, it was the perfect set up for a day of shark tagging. The crew met at Crandon Park at 8 AM, along with high school students from Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale. As we boarded the boat, reviewed some boat safety and pulled out from the marina, the skies began to clear up and the sun was shining.

Our trip leader for the day, Christian Pankow, began to speak to the students about our fishing methods and why we use the specific gear that we do. While Christian was talking, the rest of the team began to set up the gear, bait the hooks, and deploy the drums. After the 10th drum was deployed, we waited to let the bait soak in the water and allow time for sharks to get on the hooks. While we were waiting, Shannon Moorhead, an undergraduate student at UM, and I saw a blacktip breach on the 6th drum! We knew it was a good sign for how the rest of the day was going to go. Because of our sighting, we went to the 6th drum first and sure enough, there was a blacktip shark on the line. That was only 1 of 4 blacktips from that days trip. Of the four, the last blacktip that we pulled in was 1.92 meters, slightly over 6 feet, which Christian said was the “first or second largest blacktip” that he’s ever seen!


A closeup image of a blacktip eye and ampullae of lorenzini.

The Pine Crest students were able to interact with each shark by assisting the team in collecting data. The student tasks were checking the presence of the nictitating membrane on the eye with a squirt of water, measuring the shark, taking a fin clip, and tagging the shark. These opportunities allow students to not only interact with sharks but to participate in meaningful research and will hopefully light a spark in them to pursue science or at least be more knowledgeable about sharks importance to the ocean ecosystem. It was also beneficial to the students to be able to witness another graduate student, Robbie Roemer, be able to collect blood samples from all of the blacktip sharks.


The RJD team secures the shark as graduate intern, Hannah Calich, assists a Pine Crest student in tagging the blacktip shark.

Towards the end of the day, we also caught a small, adult blacknose shark in addition to the 4 blacktips that we caught before.  Because of its size, it was placed on the deck for the work up and the students on board were able to get a chance to see the differences between the blacktips we caught before and this new species. We made it back to the dock to unload and clean the gear for the next trip going out the following day. Aside from all of the sharks, not having to remove the drums from the boat was my favorite part of the day! Although it was an exhausting day, that was the most amount of blacktips that I have personally seen on a trip and even though they are not my favorite shark, they are still beautiful animals. Every tagging trip makes me more excited than the next because I come on the boat more equipped with knowledge than the time before!


Trip Leader, Christian Pankow, and undergraduate intern, Casey Dresbach, secure this blacknose shark as graduate intern, Robbie Roemer, draws blood for analysis.




Shark Tagging With Steve Brodie Charter

By Alison Enchelmaier, RJD Intern

Friday morning couldn’t come fast enough. It felt like forever since I had been on a tagging trip and I was chomping at the bit to get started. The crew arrived an hour early to load gear and everyone seemed to be in a genial mood as we hauled drumlines and bait. Today our new intern, Julia Whidden, was joining us for her first trip! Just as we were loading up, we were joined by our group of UM citizen scientists.

Dr. Neil Hammerschlag explaining RJD’s shark workup procedure

Dr. Neil Hammerschlag explaining RJD’s shark workup procedure

We headed out to Stiltsville, a series of stilt houses that reside offshore in Biscayne Bay, and began to set our gear. We added a new procedure to our protocol on this trip, fish traps. Our fish traps are large, square, portable structures made of mesh meant to catch fish without a rod and reel. We use these traps to see what fish live in the areas where we catch sharks. We placed two fish traps into the water and let them soak while we fished for sharks. After the traps were released, we set our drumlines into the water and let them soak. While we waited, Dr. Hammerschlag explained the importance of shark research and conservation and our citizen scientists learned about the tasks they would be participating in on the trip.

The RJD crew sets up gear

The RJD crew sets up gear

After an hour, we returned to check on our lines. Early in the day, we don’t often get a shark on the first line so imagine our surprise when we caught a shark on our first line, and it was a blacknose to boot! Most blacknose sharks are small; adults can grow to about 4 ft long. We don’t catch them often, so this find was a real treat! There was no time to spare as we had another shark on the second line, this time a 172 cm (~5.6 ft) female blacktip. Our citizen scientists helped the team measure, gather blood and fin samples, and tag the shark before releasing her back into the water. The next shark we encountered was another blacktip, female as well at 163 cm (~5.3 ft).


Citizen scientist checks the reflexes of a blacktip shark by squirting water in its eye.

Citizen scientist checks the reflexes of a blacktip shark by squirting water in its eye.

As we pulled in the last line the sound of thunder indicated it was time to head back to shore. On the way back to the dock, we retrieved the fish traps and identified the fish we caught. Between both traps there were five fish in total and three different species of bony fish. The species we caught were planehead filefish, a saucereye porgy, and two lane snappers.

All in all, it was a wonderful day! Thank you to our citizen scientists for joining us on a great trip!



Shark tagging with Our Lady of Lourdes Academy

By Jessica Wingar, RJD Intern

Waking up on Sunday morning, I was extremely excited to be going shark tagging, since it was my first trip in a few months.  I got up, checked the weather, it said less than 60 degrees. I was very surprised, doned my sweatpants and sweatshirt, and set off to Diver’s Paradise at Crandon Marina.

We arrived at Diver’s Paradise around 8am and loaded the gear onto the boat. Despite the fact that we were freezing, we were all anticipating a great day of shark tagging. The group from Our Lady of Lourdes Academy arrived around 9am. Captain Nick gave a quick safety briefing followed by an explanation of our drumline system by trip leaders Dani and Jake. We had added extension lines because we were going to go to a deeper site.

Dani cuts up bait on the way out to the site.

Dani cuts up bait on the way out to the site.

The girls and teachers were all very excited while we headed out to the site. Once we got the site, the captain made the decision that it was too choppy to shark tag there. Instead of the deep site, we went to Stiltsville instead. The team quickly took the extension lines off, and prepared the first several lines to go out.

After about another half an hour, we suddenly felt the boat start to slow and we saw the famous houses at Stiltsville. The team gathered the students near the back of the boat to demonstrate how we were going to deploy the lines. After the first line, the students were given the opportunity to deploy some lines. The students were organized into groups, which made the whole process run very smoothly.

Our first shark was a gorgeous blacktip. We swiftly brought the animal up onto the boat and did the work up. With the help of the students, the shark was back in the water within five minutes. Our next shark was a small nurse shark, which wriggled its way off of the line. We then worked up a blacknose followed by a beautiful 230cm lemon shark. This was only the second lemon shark I have ever seen. They have such distinctive teeth and I was in awe at the splendor of this animal.

A beautiful blacktip shark.

A beautiful blacktip shark.

After the lemon shark we were able to work up another blacktip, blacknose, and a sizeable nurse. All of the sharks were worked up quickly with the help of the students and teachers. We had a great, busy day seeing a lot of variety of shark species. Every trip that I go on is different and every trip gives me the reminder that I am so lucky to have these opportunities. I hope that the students and teachers had as great of a day as I did and are now encouraged to go out and do more conservation work.


Group picture back on the dock.


Shark Tagging with Gang Alternative

By Jake Jerome, RJD Graduate Student and Intern

On Wednesday, July 16, the RJD crew set out to waters around Miami’s historic stiltsville just off Key Biscayne in hopes to tag and release sharks for our ongoing research. We were joined by kids from the Gang Alternative program and a few citizen scientists. Many had never been on a boat before and were excited to see what was in store for the day. After a discussion about sharks, led by our trip leader Pat, we set off for our fishing waters.

Once we arrived, we deployed our first set of drumlines with the help of our guests. Everyone was very helpful and we were able to get our gear in the water in no time at all. While we let the lines soak for an hour, we collected environmental data and watched a big storm loom over the city. With the sun shining on us, we kept an eye on the fast moving storm clouds looming offshore.


A storm dumps rain on Miami.

Our first ten drums yielded nothing more than the annoying sargassum that crept along the surface of the water we were fishing in. The empty hooks gave us a chance to show the kids how the floating sargassum acts as a tiny ecosystem for small fish and crustaceans. With our lines rebaited, we headed back to our first buoy to see if our luck had changed.


A student helps deploy a line with a chunk of bait.

One by one we pulled up our lines to find nothing but empty hooks and half eaten chunks of bait. We got skunked again! With spirits low and the Miami sky opening up above us, we rounded to buoy one for our last set of drums. After switching around the crew and trying everything we could to change our luck, we managed to catch a blacknose on line number four. Excitement filled the boat as a relieved RJD crew safely secured the shark and placed a pump in its mouth to flush water over its gills. With the help of our guests, we were able to collect all of our data in less than three minutes and then had time for everyone to see the animal up close and personal before we got it back in the water and watched it swim away in good condition.  Before the excitement had time to settle, we realized we had a shark on the very next line!


Measurements are taken of the blacknose shark.

Another blacknose was pulled on the boat and quickly worked up to collect data. After a quick release, we began pulling up the rest of our lines. While pulling up our seventh line, we realized we had another shark on, something bigger than a blacknose! A nearly 8 foot lemon shark had taken our bait and was brought onto our platform. It was great to have a larger shark to show our guests and to be able to compare it to the smaller blacknoses that we caught. Once we collected all our data, we released the shark and watched it head back into the ocean.

By far the best part of the day for me was seeing the change in perception that our guest had about sharks. In the beginning, half of them were scared just coming aboard the boat, but towards the end they had no problem unloading, with many having a new appreciation for sharks! Being able to show others the true side of sharks is the most enjoyable part of working with the RJD team and why I am always excited for one of our shark tagging trips.


The awesome group for the day!

Shark Tagging with Big Brothers- Big Sisters

By Laurel Zaima, RJD Intern

It was a dreary and blustery morning in Key Biscayne for our Saturday shark-tagging trip. The heavy clouds were rolling in and the wind started to pick up. We all hoped that this weather would soon pass because wind and rain is not ideal weather for shark tagging. Sharks attend to move off shore with high winds, which might make our trip less successful than we would have hoped. Nevertheless, we were still going out on the water and everyone kept high spirits! After we loaded the boat with our equipment and the guests were all settled in, we were on our way! The guest group, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, that came out on the boat with us were excited to become citizen scientists by helping us collect data for our shark research. Some of our guests have never seen a shark up close before, so our RJD team was equally as excited to share this experience with them.

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The enthusiastic Big Brothers-Big Sisters group were eager to catch some sharks!

Led by our RJD trip leader, Pat Goebel, and Captain Eric, our enthusiastic RJD team for Saturday’s trip was Catherine, Christian, Kyra, Sam, and myself. It was only a quick boat run out to our site off of Key Biscayne; however, by that time the clouds had already started to lift and we could see the sun peaking through.

Once we arrived at our site, we deployed our first set of 10 drumlines with the help of our guests, and we let them soak for 1 hour. It seemed that with the change in weather, our luck changed as well! We caught a male nurse shark (1.91 meters total length) on the first drumline of the first set! We were able to collect data swiftly and accurately, and the shark swam off in great condition. The second drumline we pulled up had a lot of tension on the line and we predicted that this shark was going to be a big one! All of a sudden… the line snapped! That means that the shark on the other end of the line was strong enough to break 900-pound strength monofilament fishing line. Although we were a little disappointed we lost the shark, we were that much more determined to catch him again. On the fourth drumline, we caught a large (2.46 meters total length) female lemon shark, and from the body’s girth, we predicted that this female is pregnant.

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The RJD team (left to right: Sam, Kyra, Laurel, Pat, Catherine) secures and prepares the female lemon shark for a safe release back into the ocean.

 On the very next drumline, we caught another lemon shark; however, this male lemon shark was slightly smaller in size (1.78 meters total length). To conclude the first set, we caught a female black tip shark (1.70 meters total length) on the tenth drumline.

This was a great start to the day, and our success only continued! On the first drumline of the second set, we caught a beautiful male Tiger shark (2.42 meters total length). Tiger sharks are one of my favorite species, so I was especially excited to catch such a gorgeous fish. When we finally saw the tiger shark break the surface, everyone was amazed by the intricate markings of this species of shark. Tiger sharks can be most easily identified by their distinct tiger print pattern on their body. Once we pulled the shark on the platform, I secured the head of my first tiger shark! I have collect samples and data from tiger sharks before, but encountering this shark so up close was a completely different experience. While at the head of the shark, I was captivated by the tiger shark’s big glossy eyes. I think I fell in love! After a quick work up, the tiger was released back into the ocean in great condition. We didn’t catch any more sharks in the second set, but we still had one more set of ten drumlines to catch some more sharks!

The first drumline of the third set we caught another nurse shark (female; 2.06 meters total length). To conclude our data collection, we caught we caught a blacknose shark! Blacknose sharks are a smaller species, and this female had a total length of 1.29 meters. Our team doesn’t catch blacknose sharks very frequently, so today was our lucky day!

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The guests from Big Brothers-Big Sisters worked together to pull up a drumline in hopes that there is a shark on the other end!

Just as everyone thought the excitement was over and it was time to head back to shore, I took one wrong step and slipped right off the platform and into the water! Fortunately, Captain Eric was the first one to see me fall into the water and immediately put the boat in neutral so I didn’t get left behind. The brisk water gave me a little shock, but I was absolutely fine. I’ll just have to be careful where I put my clumsy feet next time!

Although the morning began a little gloomy, the weather cleared up very nicely and it ended up being a beautiful and sharky day! The guests of the Big Brother-Big Sister program not only had an opportunity to see a shark for the first time, but they also were able to touch a shark and help us collect data! The RJD team was very fortunate to go out with such an enthusiastic group, and we look forward to go shark tagging with Big Brothers- Big Sisters again!


Shark Tagging with Advancement

By Michelle Martinek, RJD Intern

On Thursday, March 27 we welcomed a group of beloved friends and benefactors, Advancement, aboard the ship Diver’s Paradise for a day of fun, good food, and of course shark tagging. The weather was chilly yet invigorating. As the last remnants of sleep left my eyes, we reached our nearby location for the day. Captain Eric took us to the waters of Stiltsville since the weather was causing unpleasant waves farther offshore. For anyone unfamiliar, Stiltsville is a small group of wooden houses on stilts built in the mid 1900’s on the sand banks of the Safety Valve on the edge of Biscayne Bay. Our delightful intern Sam shared the history of the area with me and some guests. I highly recommend looking into it if interested. The saying is always true: you learn something new every day! Though the semester is in full swing and RJD has already conducted countless successful boating trips, this was only my second of 2014. It felt so good to get back into the swing of things: cutting bait, attaching floats, talking about sharks with everyone. I could have never anticipated was just how helpful and eager our participants would be! It’s always amazing for us to see our passion spread to everyone we get to bring on the boat. Even though the research tasks never get old for us, it’s always a joy to see other people learn and preform them, interacting with the sharks and becoming a part of the scientific process.

Luck was on our side that day as our very first line had a handsome, male, lemon shark. It did mean I lost a bet on which line would have the first shark, but that’s the sort of thing you’re happy to be wrong about. When life hands you lemon sharks, you get to work! He measured close to seven feet in total length, all of our data samples were successfully collected, and the shark was released in good condition.

lemon shark

The lemon shark is safely returned to the water

With the help of a new and improved centrifuge we ran blood work to test hematocrit levels. Hematocrit is the ratio of oxygen-transporting red blood cells to plasma in the blood. Same as it is used by doctors and vets for humans, cats, dogs, and other animals, it helps us monitor the health of the sharks. We’re very happy to have new technology on board to make this important test easier.

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The team uses the on board laboratory to analyze blood samples

Unfortunately our success on the first line was not indicative of a busy day. Our next catch came a while later and was a calm, 5 foot, female Blacktip. It was quickly obvious what an amazing group we had on board. All our guests both young and old were gathered nearby for a look at any shark and were always eager for any chance to assist in our research.

participant helps

A participant helps take measurements of a shark while others wait attentively, ready to do their jobs.

Every job was done quickly and efficiently and their respect for the sharks was apparent. The younger members weren’t squeamish at all about getting their hands on juicy pieces of tuna bait and they pulled in the 35 pound drumlines with no hesitation. I was delighted by the quick wit and enthusiasm of our citizen scientists. Having no younger siblings of my own, my favorite moment was when the kids began a friendly competition over hooking the floating buoys and had me help them. I may have joined RJD for the chance to do amazing shark research, but interacting with kids is one of many unexpected joys it provides.

Our last catch of the day was a 4 foot, female Blacknose. This was particularly exciting for me because it was the first time I was assigned to the head of a shark to bring it on board and hold. Even a small shark can provide an adrenaline rush the first time you get to be so close to the head. All of our samples were quickly taken and like the previous two sharks she was given a plastic spaghetti tag then released in good condition. Even though this was one of the calmest trips I’ve had, it was extremely enjoyable thanks to a great group of interns and participants. I want to thank both my more experienced interns for giving me advice as I got back into the groove of things, and of course the Advancement group for being so helpful on the boat and supporting all the research we do.


The whole group after a successful day!

Shark Tagging with the University of Miami Citizens’ Board

by Becca Shelton, RJD Intern

The excitement on board the R/V Endsley was pretty apparent before we pushed away from the dock. During the prior two days, RJD had successfully tagged and released 12 nurse sharks and 2 bull sharks around Key Biscayne! You never know what you’re going to catch from day to day, but since it was nurse shark mating season, we predicted that we would catch a decent amount of feisty nurses. With high hopes, we headed off to the channel at Bear Cut.

An hour after we deployed the first set of drumlines, it was time to pull them in and see if there were any sharks on the lines! We highly encourage all of our guests to be as involved as possible and help us with collecting samples from the sharks as well as help with reeling in and deploying lines.


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Shark tagging with the American Heritage school

by Becca Shelton, RJD Intern


I was really excited for the RJD shark trip with American Heritage for three reasons. First, this was my last trip of the year with the RJD crew and Captain Curt. While it was a sad thought, the anticipation of the trip was more exhilarating because it was going to be my last trip for over a month and my expectations were high. Second, we went sampling at Hawk’s Channel where we had caught an adult Tiger shark two weeks in a row! Not only that, but the week before in the same area, we also caught a total of 9 sharks of varying species! And last but not least, I was going to spend the day in the Keys, shark tagging with some of my favorite people and the weather was perfect. It was shaping up to be a great last day on the water.

After casting off, we began with our routine of everyone introducing themselves and explaining the science and importance behind the trip. The high school students from American Heritage were enthusiastic and ready to help. A few even did some cheers on the deck for good luck! We set out our first 10 drumlines and waited with anticipation to see what we would catch. Read more