Cynthia Wigren co-founded the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy and the Gills Club. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Management and a Masters in Business Administration. She is an avid traveller and a scuba diver with a deep appreciation for wildlife on land and sea. Her underwater experiences with whale sharks, great hammerheads, nurse sharks, and great white sharks led her to leave the corporate world and establish a non-profit to support shark research and education programs.
This year, Shark Week has promised us more science and no fake documentaries (thank you Rich Ross!), but their ‘Finbassabor’ line-up leads me to believe that the majority of researchers featured will be men, once again. As long as Shark Week ditches mockumentarties for real science does it matter which researchers it features? With 42 million people tuning in during the week, I believe it does.
“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns, that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” – Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
As nature documentary viewers often hear, there is a lot about sharks and rays that scientists don’t know… but what are the most important things that we need to know? A new paper written by Colin Simpfendorfer, Will White, and former Shark Science Monday interview subjects Michelle Heupel and Nick Dulvy attempts to identify these “known unknowns” of shark and ray conservation. “The importance of research and public opinion to conservation management of sharks and rays: a synthesis”, which arose out of the 2010 Sharks International conference, is the most complete record ever created of the research questions that we need to answer in order to better conserve and manage these animals. For young shark researchers eager to work on projects with practical conservation importance, this paper is a great place to start looking for ideas. Additionally, future published work that claims to be important for conservation and management would do well to cite it, and anyone interested in this subject should read it.
Last spring, we held an ethical debate focusing on a paper called “Science or Slaughter”. The authors claimed that sometimes it is necessary to kill sharks to answer important scientific questions. One of the authors agreed to be interviewed for Shark Science Monday. Enjoy! As always, feel free to ask questions of the interview subject in the comments and I’ll send them her way.
Apologies for the background noise halfway through the interview- this took place during a World Cup game, and you are hearing excitement from people three floors down in the Providence Convention Center. Background noise filters can only do so much, but what Michelle has to say is important and I wanted to include the entire interview.