Inspiring Environmental Change Through Shark Science and Youth Education

Raised of $6,700 Goal
Ended on 2/05/14
Campaign Ended
  • $1,142
  • 18%
  • Finished
    on 2/05/14

About This Project

This long-term research project aims to expand our knowledge on shark population dynamics in a relatively understudied area through a series of field assessments, including tagging, tissue sampling, and mark-recapture analyses. In addition, selected students will be given the opportunity to participate in this research to help motivate and inspire our environmentally conscious youth to pursue successful careers in the environmental field.

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What is the context of this research?

Science Component:

Understanding patterns in animal movement is challenging. However, tagging methods offer a detailed look into the secret lives of animals and provides pertinent information relevant to species survival. Therefore, this study will assess the life history characteristics of the common thresher shark (Alopias vulpinus) (and other shark species) in New York/New Jersey waters. With a recently discovered aggregation site, this study will capture, tag, and release a substantial quantity of sharks over the course of several years to gain a better understanding of shark population health and characteristics within this rich ecosystem.

Youth Component:

In addition, a youth education program will be developed, providing students with the necessary skills to excel in Marine Biology, and more importantly, their future. By integrating shark tagging with youth education, this innovative approach will enhance our knowledge pertaining to an understudied species and will help to secure our future through the education and motivation of our environmentally conscious youth.

What is the significance of this project?

Science Component:

Understanding key organismal biological and ecological characteristics (e.g. migratory patterns, population abundance) will provide critical information needed to successfully implement proper management initiatives. Therefore, the critical information gathered from this research will provide management figures and policy makers with the proper information needed to understand shark stock characteristics, population status, and other essential life-history characteristics that will be needed to conserve our sharks for generations to come.

Youth Component:

Recent updates in standardized testing illustrates that NYC students performed poorly, with only 30% showing proficiency in key subject areas. In addition, hands-on field activities for underprivileged youth are lacking due to funding constraints and strict curriculum requirements. Due to this, this project will give these children life-changing opportunities that will help motivate them towards successful careers. If funding permits, full-ride scholarships will make it possible for selected 6th-12th grade students to participate in shark tagging research (during the first year) or to participate in the week long Shark Camp component of this project (in subsequent years) so families lacking sufficient income can still send their children to participate.

What are the goals of the project?

The proposed study has several key long-term conservation and scientific goals:

1) Tag juvenile common thresher sharks (and other shark species) with plastic tags containing unique identifying numbers, also known as M-tags, to understand basic life-history characteristics of this species, such as broad movement patterns, growth, and population abundance.

2) Over 2 years, tag 30 juvenile common thresher sharks using MiniPAT tags (n=30 only if funding permits) to further our understanding of shark movement characteristics pertaining to seasonal migratory trends, and temperature and depth preferences.

3) Through non-invasive gut-content analyses (e.g. stomach eversions), determine shark diet composition.

4) Use obtained scientific information to educate relevant authorities to aid in local and regional shark population management.

5) Publish findings in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

6) Present findings at national and international shark conferences.

7) Integrate youth education by promoting: a) 6th-12th grade student participation in field research (Year 1) and b) Shark Camp (Subsequent Years). This camp will introduce a maximum of 6, 6th-12th graders each week to Marine Biology through direct hands-on field experiences pertaining to shark Science. By incorporating this element, we will be inspiring and motivating our environmentally conscious youth towards a career in conservation.


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A recent aggregation site for juvenile common thresher sharks was found in NY/NJ waters. In order to understand some of the unique life-history characteristics of this shark species, we will be applying MiniPAT Tags which will be pre-programmed to record movement data (in addition to depth and temperature) for up to one year. To successfully conduct this long-term research, we need to deploy a substantial quantity of these tags; however, the present funding request only pertains to our first year where we aim to purchase and deploy at least one MiniPAT tag. Additional captured sharks will be tagged with M-tags, as a way of In addition, we need fuel and supplies for our research platform (25' vessel) and the appropriate longline and hook-and-line gear to capture these sharks.

Additionally, we would like to involve our environmentally conscious youth in this project. Therefore, we aim to take a minimum of four, 6th-12th grade students to participate in the research. Since this is the first year of this research program, students will only come out on a daily basis; however, starting in the second year, students will participate in a once-in-a-lifetime week long research opportunity.

Meet the Team

Craig O'Connell
Craig O'Connell

Team Bio

Dr. Craig O'Connell earned his Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (2013). When he is not writing, there is no telling where you will find Craig. Sometimes it is in the middle of South American tropical rainforests, or diving with great white sharks in South Africa. Either way, Craig has traveled the world and through his travels has learned a substantial amount about animal behavior and diversity. Through these experiences, he has enlightened the minds of many through his teachings to both K-12 and undergraduate students.

Craig currently has ten peer-reviewed scientific publications and five more in review. He is an active scientist and also takes part in a variety of filming opportunities. Since starting Marine Biology (seven years ago), Craig has appeared in well over a dozen films, including Shark Week and hosting an episode for Smithsonian Channel.

Lab Notes

Nothing posted yet.

Additional Information

As a way to say thank you to our potential donators, we would like to offer the following:

1) If a $1000 donation is made, a 16" x 20" glossy print of a photo of your choice will be mailed to you (choose photo from here:!photos-for-sale/c2rm)

2) If a $5000 donation is made, donators will be invited to help longline sample, capture, tag, and release a common thresher shark (if possible for donator). In addition, donators will be given a high resolution photograph of the tagged shark, a video of the tagging process, and a detailed report on shark movement patterns at the end of the project.

Project Backers

  • 17Backers
  • 18%Funded
  • $1,142Total Donations
  • $67.18Average Donation
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