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What are Critically Endangered hammerhead sharks doing in the waters off Miami?

Raised of $5,000 Goal
Funded on 12/23/22
Successfully Funded
  • $5,495
  • 109%
  • Funded
    on 12/23/22

About This Project

Great hammerhead sharks were recently assessed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List. Our research team at Field School, an inclusive marine science training program, has discovered critical habitat used by babies and juveniles. And this nursery area is right off of downtown Miami, some of the most highly impacted waters in the United States! What are they doing there? What threats do they face? This project will help us to gather data to help protect this vital site.

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What is the context of this research?

Great hammerhead sharks, an iconic and beloved species, are Critically Endangered according to the latest update of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List. They need serious conservation attention.

A long-recognized conservation research priority is identifying nursery areas, special parts of the ocean where baby sharks are born and grow up before they're big enough to fend for themselves in the deep blue sea.

Our team has identified critical habitat for great hammerhead sharks, a nursery area used by juveniles. This is the only known nursery area for this species on the east coast of the United States, and therefore it is vital to understand and protect it.

What is the significance of this project?

We have identified the only known nursery area for Critically Endangered Great Hammerhead sharks on the east coast of the United States. Habitats like this one are vitally important for the conservation of this species, and we need to understand it so we can more effectively protect it from threats. While many people think of critical habitat for endangered species as being "pristine" and remote, we can see the skyline of Miami from this site--it's some of the most impacted waters on Earth. This can tell us about how other highly impacted waters can be used by marine life.

Field School has a long-term research site here where we are attempting to answer many questions about how Great Hammerhead sharks use this site, what threats they face, and what help is needed.

What are the goals of the project?

In general, our goals for the long term project are to further understand how juvenile and young-of-year great hammerhead sharks use this site, with the eventual goal of protecting it from threats.

We have several ongoing research projects at this location aiming to understand the ecology and conservation of local populations of this species and how it relates to this incredible site we've identified. These include telemetry tracking to understand habitat use, feeding ecology studies to understand what they're eating, and underwater video surveys to observe behavior. The boat rental fees raised here will contribute to gathering data for all of them.


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Much of our research infrastructure is in place for this study (including University and State research permits). This project will help cover the additional costs of renting small boats from the University of Miami Marine lab and bringing key staff (David Shiffman) to the site.

We will be using a multi-method approach to aid in our understanding of these incredible animals and how they use this important habitat. What do they eat? What threats do they face? How much of their time do they spend here, and where do they go when they're not here? How are human activities threatening them, and what rules need to be put in place to protect this habitat? What do different stakeholder groups think of the possible conservation solutions?

Our end goal here is a series of scientific publications (we already have one, documenting the location of the habitat), communicating this work to the public, and eventually protecting this habitat.

Endorsed by

This is a really important project as it aims to study a wild species in a highly modified habitat. It engages with a diverse set of scholars who have a track record of success.

Project Timeline

This is an ongoing multi-year project, but the funds from this crowdfunding project will be used within 18 months of project completion.

This will include at least 4 trips to South Florida, each with at least three days of field work as well as meeting with and updating local collaborators.

We will share highlights on social media and through lab notes.

This project will eventually contribute to at least three peer-reviewed scientific journal publications.

Nov 23, 2022

Project Launched

Jul 01, 2023

Travel to Biscayne Bay, Florida for a week of research

Sep 01, 2023

Travel to Biscayne Bay, Florida for a week of research

Nov 12, 2023

Travel to Biscayne Bay, Florida for a week of research

Meet the Team

David Shiffman
David Shiffman
Faculty Research Associate


Arizona State University
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Team Bio

I am working with Field School, an inclusive marine science education team.

David Shiffman

I have loved sharks since I was a young kid in Pittsburgh, PA and am now living my childhood dream of studying them and working to protect endangered species. I am a faculty research associate at Arizona State University's Washington, DC Center, and I am the author of the new book Why Sharks Matter: A Deep Dive with the World's Most Misunderstood Predator. Follow me on twitter Facebook and instragram @WhySharksMatter

Additional Information

Permits: University of Miami IACUC #20-044, FWC Special Activities License #SAL-1798-21-SRP

Project Backers

  • 12Backers
  • 109%Funded
  • $5,495Total Donations
  • $457.92Average Donation
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