Vicky Vásquez is a graduate student under the Pacific Shark Research Center (PSRC) where she studies ‘Lost Sharks’; a term used to described lesser known or undiscovered species of cartilaginous fishes. She also serves as the social media manager to the larger entity, Moss Landing Marine Labs. Vicky combines her outreach efforts with her research as a tool for engaging a broader audience. One such example includes the discovery of the first Lanternshark species off the Pacific coast of Central America. In an effort to excite school age children with the discovery, Vicky reached out to her younger cousins as well as a local San Francisco youth group for suggestions on the name of the new shark species. When the Ninja Lanternshark discovery was made public, the news went viral and was even featured in the comic, Sherman’s Lagoon. In addition, the scientific name, Etmopterus benchleyi, is a nod to Peter Benchley’s often unnoticed contributions towards ocean conservation. Another research highlight from Vicky’s work is being apart of first research team to ever tag a Goblin Shark (Mitzsukurina oswtoni). In some of her past sharky fieldwork, Vicky has worked with Great Whites, Soupfins, Sevengills, Hammerheads, Leopard Sharks, Bay Rays, and Thornback Rays. She uses her work with sharks as a lead into to broader issues affecting the world’s oceans such as plastic pollution and overfishing. Some of Vicky’s other science communication work includes several appearances on Discovery Channel’s Shark Week; co-host of the Ocean Science Radio podcast, freelance writer and public speaker. To follow Vicky’s work, check out her Facebook and Instagram pages with the handle @VickyShark or find her right here on Twitter @VickySharky
I am a jack of several trades – marine mammalogist by training, converted into shark/fish ecologist as a doctoral student. Born and raised in the French Alps, I spent the last decade Down Under and have only just moved back to the UK to start a new postdoctoral position at Bangor University. In this role, I will be quantifying and mapping risks to marine mammals and seabirds resulting from a number of anthropogenic threats such as fishing bycatch, vessel strikes and exposure to human-made underwater noise.
I have a keen interest in spatial ecology and statistical modelling as they relate to wildlife conservation problems, and always get a kick out of crunching numbers. My PhD research focused on hotspots of marine vertebrates, and how these aligned with prominent physical features of the ocean floor such as seamounts, submarine canyons, or offshore shoals and banks. Part of this work involved the development of a new generation of midwater baited underwater video cameras that can be used to film endangered species in deep-water environments. More recently, I have also been building abundance models for a number of cetacean species (humpback whales, bottlenose and snubfin dolphins) and distribution models for large pelagic fishes (tunas and mackerels).
Fun facts: My parents’ dog and I share the same name; my marine biologist wife @sarahmarley86 and I once conducted an observational study on seals (with big binoculars!) on what we later discovered was a nudist beach; I speak with a chiefly north American accent (the product of years of binge watching soap operas to learn English), which confuses the heck out of everybody. Sometimes even me!
This week, I want to chat about the oceans, as well as about all aspects of academic life, including uprooting one’s family in pursuit of postdocs, the challenges of the two-body problem, gender equality in STEM, and more.
Post-doctoral Marine Top Predator Ecologist
Bangor University – School of Ocean Sciences
Dr David Shiffman (@whysharksmatter) is a marine biologist specializing in the ecology and conservation of sharks. He is a Liber Ero Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.
I am a biology professor at Allegheny College, a small liberal arts college in northwest Pennsylvania (USA). I teach a wide array of courses, including introductory biology, statistics, evolution, paleobiology (the study of fossil organisms), and research seminars. My research is focused on predator-prey relationships through evolutionary time, encompassing paleobiology and biomechanics (the application of principles from engineering and physics to biological problems). The majority of my research has been on fossil and living sharks, especially focusing on their teeth, as that is what roughly 95% of their fossil record is. I want to know why fossil shark teeth (up to 250 million years ago) are shaped the way they are, and why they are so different than modern sharks. I also study other fishes, crabs, snails, and salamanders.
My students are required to complete a senior thesis in order to graduate. Most of my students study things that are different than my research, as they are passionate about different things, but still use the techniques that I use. My students have examined the prey capture mechanics of venus flytraps, the evolution of trilobites across mass extinctions, the effects of the Endangered Species Act on the shape of wolf skulls, and the biomechanics of sports such as soccer, baseball, and long jump.
My second area of scholarship is on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, from kindergarten through college. I coordinate partnerships and events between Allegheny College and my local school district to improve STEM education in my community. I am also a member of the Gills Club, an outreach group that gives girls opportunities to engage with projects focused on sharks, nature, and the environment.
My Ph.D. is in biology, with the wonderful Phil Motta at the University of South Florida. I stayed at USF, but moved up to geology for a postdoc with Greg Herbert. Before USF, I earned my M.S. in geology at Michigan State and my B.S. in geology at the University of Illinois. I grew up just outside Chicago, and even though Meadville is now home, sweet home Chicago still has part of my heart. My husband and kids (3 & 7 years old) help me maintain that whole work-life balance thing. We craft, we play outside, we build Lego, and we embrace our geekery.
You can follow me on Twitter: @WhitenackLab
My blog: https://whitenacklab.wordpress.com/
BIG PICTURE THINKING
Our vision is global, with partnerships and field programmes in most ocean basins either side of the Equator. Past and current sampling sites include: Western Australia, Palau, New Caledonia, the Chagos Archipelago, Tonga, French Polynesia, the Savage Islands (Ilhas Selvagens), The Philippines, and the Gulf of Oman.
SCIENCE THAT MATTERS
Our goal is to make a difference
Our research boasts high academic and real-life impact. It is used to directly inform and influence both policy and management actions. We are a member group of the Ocean Science Council of Australia (OSCA), an independent consortium of leading Australian experts concerned with advancing marine conservation.
Our research focuses on marine ecological questions relevant to conservation and largely explores the influence of human activities on marine ecosystems.
Key questions our research explores include:
– How do pelagic sharks and fishes respond to the establishment of large marine reserves?
– What roles do apex predators play in tropical marine ecosystems?
– How is climate variability manifested in fish growth and what does this mean for warming oceans?
– How are sharks and fishes distributed on biogeographical scales and in relation to habitat?
– What are the socioeconomic drivers of illegal fishing?
These questions are addressed using a range of techniques included BRUVS, telemetry, biomarkers and predictive modelling.
From the beginning of my research career I have attempted to capitalize on previous training as an engineer to understand the evolution of the mechanical systems of animals. At the University of California Berkeley I was a Miller Research Fellow working on the mechanics of salamander walking and the jaws of a particularly unusual group of limbless amphibians called caecilians. While at UCB I worked with Pixar Studios on the movie ‘Finding Nemo’. I spent three years advising on animal movements and biological aspects of the film and was delighted when the hard work of the Pixar folks was so well received at the box office.
In 2001 I founded the Comparative Biomechanics Laboratory at the University of California and while there he won the Bartholomew Prize for physiology research from the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology and the UC Academic Senate prize for undergraduate teaching. In 2008 I moved to the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories in the San Juan Islands. With students and collaborators I have published more than 90 articles in scientific journals on abstruse subjects including the heads of hammerhead sharks, the properties of skeletons and the difficulties of eating hard prey. I do my best to share my enthusiasm for the field of biomechanics, for a while with a monthly column that has appeared in Natural History Magazine (2000-2008) and now with occasional writing for other popular press outlets.
My current research takes advantage of the marine lab’s easy access to fish in their natural habitat. I am trying to understand how and why some fishes are sticky, how they burrow, and the relationship between skeletal structure and function. The tools of my research include CT scanning, prototyping, CNC milling, material testing, high-speed video, sonomicrometry, SEM, and physical and mathematical model building.