University of Rhode Island shark researcher Brad Wetherbee recently took eight students on a two-day shark fishing expedition to capture and tag mako sharks, giving the undergraduates hands-on experience in a migration research project.
“I’ve always had some
sort of connection with sharks,” Kirsten Fagan, a junior majoring in marine
biology who has been working with Wetherbee for two years, said. “Maybe it’s that
sharks are misunderstood and I always felt misunderstood, too. Everyone has
this fear of them, and while there is some truth to it that they’re dangerous,
that’s only if you’re disrespecting them or messing with them.”
The trip took
Wetherbee and the students to sites up to 35 miles offshore, into areas where
mako sharks are known to travel in during summer and fall. Wetherbee hopes data
yielded from the tagging will garner insight into the sharks’ populations, their migratory routes and their preferred feeding grounds.
“There is a big
difference between learning things while sitting in a classroom or in front of
a computer and learning by actually experiencing something,” Wetherbee said.
“These students got to go out fishing for sharks, see big, beautiful 9-foot
sharks right next to the boat, and experience something that they will remember
for a long time. There is no substitute for experiences like that.”
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