Wednesday, July 31, 2013

UNO Researchers to Be Featured on Discovery's Shark Week

University of New Orleans researchers and students are slated to be featured in the Discovery Channel program "Voodoo Sharks," as part of Shark Week, the network's popular week-long series of shows dedicated to sharks. "Voodoo Sharks" will air Monday, August 5 at 9 p.m. on Discovery Channel.

The program investigates bull shark populations that have moved beyond oceans and U.S. coasts to the bayous of Louisiana, according to a promotional description from Discovery Channel. Nicknamed "voodoo sharks" by local shrimp fishermen, the bull sharks have the extraordinary ability to live in both salt and fresh water environments and they show up by the hundreds in the bayous of Louisiana. For a scientific perspective on bull sharks, camera crews accompanied UNO doctoral student Jonathan Davis and his fellow researchers as they collected, tagged and tracked bull sharks in Lake Pontchartrain.

According to Davis, a researcher with UNO's Nekton Research Laboratory, bull sharks have been seen in Lake Pontchartrain for centuries, but the distribution of these predators throughout the lake, the duration of their stay and their activities are not well understood. The goal of Davis' research is to learn more about the sharks' movements and behaviors in relation to the time of year and conditions of the lake.

The camera crews visited with UNO researchers on two different occasions in May. On the second visit, Davis and his crew, which included his wife, Lucy—a UNO undergraduate student, Maiadah Bader, an undergraduate student and Patrick Smith, a Ph.D. student whose research focuses primarily on redfish, caught five sharks in 40 minutes. The camera crews captured the researchers pulling the sharks aboard their boat, inserting transmitters into the sharks' bodies, as well as doing the external tagging, measuring, weighing and examination of the sharks. They took blood samples from the sharks before releasing them back into the water.

"They got some great footage of the crew doing real science, carefully releasing the shark and celebrating the success that was our adventure," Davis said.

The Nekton Research Laboratory at the University of New Orleans conducts estuarine and environmental research and engages in educational, student training and outreach programs. The lab disseminates its research data and knowledge to the scientific community, government agencies and the general public.


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Nekton Research Laboratory at the University of New Orleans
Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences