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WhySharksMatter is headed to Miami for his Ph.D. !

As those of you who follow me on Twitter know, I have been accepted into a Ph.D. program at the University of Miami and will be starting there in the fall. In the immortal words of the great philosopher LeBron James, I’ll be taking my talents to South Beach.

The specific program I’ve joined is the new Leonard and Jayne Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy. I will be working in the lab of Dr. Neil Hammerschlag, Director of the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program.

Dr. Hammerschlag’s embrace of online outreach and public education is one of the many things that attracted me to his lab. On the RJ Dunlap Program’s website, you can not only track his satellite tagged sharks and adopt your own, but you can participate in a virtual shark science expedition and download a free marine conservation high school curriculum. Additionally, the lab has an active network of volunteer interns, and they take out entire high school classes to tag sharks.

Though we are still in the planning stages, my project will be a multi-disciplinary empirical approach to determining what happens to fish communities and habitats when sharks aren’t there anymore. In other words, I’ll be studying why sharks matter to the oceans. There will be ample opportunity for you to volunteer to help with both field and lab components of the project, so stay tuned!

I’ll also be helping  with the lab’s social media, which presently includes a blog, a Facebook fan page, and a Twitter account. I encourage you to follow/fan us, and I welcome your suggestions for improvement. You can also support the lab by buying some merchandise through the online store, where 20% of proceeds go benefit the lab’s research.

Worry not, I’ll continue to write for Southern Fried Science. While Miami is one of the most geographically Southern cities in the U.S., culturally it is not. Andrew has assured me that as long as I visit the panhandle every once in a while, he won’t revoke my Southern-ness.

This move is bittersweet for me. I’ve loved my time at the College of Charleston and am sad to be leaving a great city with so many great friends, but I’m thrilled to be starting a new chapter of my life and joining such an exciting program. I’m also excited to be joining a larger shark science community- many universities within a few hours of UM have active shark research programs and I look forward to seeing my shark friends and colleagues more than just once a year at conferences.

Finally, I’m looking forward to meeting a new group of Southern Fried Science readers. Who lives in South Florida? The first slice of key lime pie is on me.