Book review: “Shark Research: Emerging Technologies and Applications for the Field and Laboratory”

Editors: Jeffrey C. Carrier, Michael R. Heithaus, Colin A. Simpfendorfer. CRC Press, available here.

I can’t imagine a more useful introductory reference guide for new or prospective graduate students starting their career in marine biology than “Shark Research: Emerging Technologies and Applications for the Field And Laboratory”. This book is designed for people who have little to no familiarity with a research discipline but are about to start working in that discipline, a large and important audience that is often ignored by books and review papers geared towards people who are already experts. So many graduate students are told to learn a new research method by reading technical literature that assumes they already know this stuff, resulting in stress and frustration.

The book consists of 19 chapters, each focusing on a different research method commonly used by shark and ray researchers and each written by a team of experts from that discipline. Topics include tried-and-true research methods like ageing sharks, tracking sharks with telemetry tags, and population genetics, as well as new and emerging methods like drones and environmental DNA. There are even chapters on citizen science and social science!

The chapters start from first principles, assuming that readers know little to nothing about the subject of that chapter. Chapters summarize key background information you need to know before understanding a research method, explains how to use that research method, and walks you through case studies of how those research methods have been used. Many have photographs and diagrams showing what it looks like using those methods in the field or lab, almost all walk you through analysis of some sample data.

You won’t be an expert in a brand-new highly-technical subject after reading a chapter of a textbook, but that’s not the goal here. This book provides key background information and basic introductory explanations that graduate students will need to understand the primary literature in that discipline, filling an important gap in graduate student education. 

 I wish there had been a book like this available when I started my Masters research!