David Shiffman • Dear Shark Man • December 13, 2017
Welcome to Volume #5 of Dear Shark Man, an advice column inspired by a ridiculous e-mail I received. You can send your questions to me via twitter (@WhySharksMatter) or e-mail (WhySharksMatter at gmail).
Dear Shark Man,
What’s the history of the shark’s cultural image as a sneaky aggressive predator? Do other cultures see it differently?
Imaginative in Irvine
Much of the large-scale public fear of sharks we see today can be traced to the movie “Jaws” (read my Gizmodo article about this here). Shark conservation biologists actually use the term “the Jaws effect” in peer reviewed scientific literature. Terror of sharks resulting from that movie is fairly common even among people you wouldn’t expect; for example, both of my parents are outdoorsy and have post-graduate degrees, and yet both reported being afraid to go swimming in pools or lakes the summer after Jaws came out. Personally, I don’t think that modern shark b-movies like “SharkNado” or “Two-Headed Shark Attack” inspire the same level of public misunderstanding because they’re obviously silly, but others disagree.
Media coverage of shark bites also plays a major role. If someone gets bitten by a shark anywhere in the world, it’s headline news everywhere even if the bite isn’t severe enough to require more than a band-aid. In Australia, 38% of reported “shark attacks” didn’t even involve any injury at all. This is part of why I, along with many other shark scientists, have called on the popular press to avoid the inflammatory and inaccurate term “shark attack” in favor of a typology of other terms (shark sighting, shark encounter, shark bite, fatal shark bite).
Other cultures absolutely see sharks differently. Where I now live in western Canada, coastal First Nations have stories about a supernatural being called the Dogfish Woman. In some South Pacific cultures, sharks are seen as spirits of ancestors called aumakua (briefly referenced in Moana, see below), and there are even shark gods like Dakuwaqa.
Maui in the form of a shark, from Moana. You’re welcome.
Andrew David Thaler • Monday Morning Salvage • December 11, 2017
Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)
- 2017 Year in Climate. It’s been a wild, woolly years of climate highs and policy lows.
- Fossils of Congress, featuring real, non-elected fossils, found around DC, might be my new favorite thing.
David Shiffman • #SciComm • December 7, 2017
Join a team of conservation biologists and wildlife experts for a live science communication event! We are going watch the award-winning BBC documentary series Planet Earth 2 together, tweeting expert commentary and reactions throughout using #PlanetEarthChat. Anyone is free to join in the discussion, and is free to ask questions of our expert team.
We’ll be starting our episodes all at exactly the same time, so anyone who wants to participate can be sure to be synched with us. I’ll make a Storify of all the tweets transcript at the end.
David Shiffman • Dear Shark Man • December 6, 2017
Welcome to Volume #4 of Dear Shark Man, an advice column inspired by a ridiculous e-mail I received. You can send your questions to me via twitter (@WhySharksMatter) or e-mail (WhySharksMatter at gmail).
Dear Shark Man,
I feel more and more guilty about my own meat consumption. I wonder, are there any vegan sharks?
Eager in England
There are more than 500 species of sharks, and they range widely in shape, size, habitat, and behavior. However, every single species eats animals. Many eat fish, some eat invertebrates, and few eat mammals and birds, but they all eat animals. Even the filter-feeders like whale sharks are eating zooplankton, which are (tiny) animals.
Bonnethead sharks have been documented with seagrass in their stomachs, which is likely the result of accidentally ingesting seagrass while eating crabs that live among the grass. (Sometimes I fail to pick all the lettuce off of my turkey sandwich and eat it accidentally, that doesn’t mean I’m seeking out lettuce or that lettuce is a major component of my diet). Recent work by Samantha Leigh has shown that bonnetheads may be able to partially digest this seagrass, which is pretty neat. However, that does not make them vegans, or even vegetarians.
Incidentally, a member of an influential marine conservation family whose name rhymes with Mousteau once claimed that there are more than 1,000 species of sharks and most of them are vegetarian, which is…extremely not correct.
Andrew David Thaler • Academic life •
Travis Nielsen is the founder and CEO of Azurigen Management and Consulting Solutions Inc. A STEM project management firm that specializes in linking conservation based science to business and government. He is a published scientist specializing in Marine Biology with 10 years experience in STEM, and 10 years of experience in management and leadership. He has been responsible for projects with budgets up to $500,000, working with multiple stakeholders, large public engagement mandates, and with staffs up to 100 people in locations all across the globe.
Walking into the airport one morning, my mind was still addled by the fog of waking up at 4am. I was heading to a conference for work and as I get to my ticket counter to check-in for my flight I am politely told by the counter staff that the flight had been cancelled. Confused, and curious as to why the flight was shut down, I enquired around until I found a friend that was on shift as a TSA agent, I asked what she knew, and it turns out that the flight was cancelled because one of the flight crew didn’t show up for work. The rumor was the crew member had a little too much fun at the pub and was nursing off a self-inflicted illness… I sighed and laughed to myself about how it was just my luck. This led to a magic adventure of cancellations and bookings for multiple flights and waiting for hours, just to leave the airport. The reason that this cancellation is now a funny story and not a vivid nightmare – the airline that cancelled the flight went out of its way to help me when things went sideways, giving me vouchers for food and hotel stays, helping me as best they could to get where I needed to go, and generally doing all it could to help. This help is what the business world calls ‘customer service’ and it is a critical part of every business out there, and for many small businesses, it can be the difference between success and failure.
In science, even though we deal with businesses daily, we rarely realize that we engage in customer service constantly! From professors dealing with the students they teach to the post-docs searching for in-kind services and grant money. To restate the cliché – Science is not done in a vacuum. Scientists should consider themselves an unconventional type of business entity that doesn’t sell a product or service, but instead deals in data and discovery – this is an invaluable product and service that keeps many industries going. As a result, customer service is an integral part of how we do science, and it should be obvious we need to keep our customer service skills sharp.
Andrew David Thaler • Monday Morning Salvage • December 4, 2017
Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)
- ‘Extremely Active’ 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Comes to a Close – Here’s the Full Season in One Four-Minute Video:
The Argentine military submarine ARA San Juan and crew are seen leaving the port of Buenos Aires, Argentina June 2, 2014. Picture taken on June 2, 2014. Armada Argentina/Handout via REUTERS
David Shiffman • Dear Shark Man • November 28, 2017
Welcome to volume #3 of Dear Shark Man, an advice column inspired by a ridiculous e-mail I received. You can send your questions to me via twitter (@WhySharksMatter) or e-mail (WhySharksMatter at gmail).
Dear Shark Man,
Since it’s #GivingTuesday, what are some shark conservation charities you recommend?
Generous in Georgia