SciFund Challenge: Help support my shark feeding ecology research

scifundI am participating in the 4th SciFund Challenge, a crowdfunding event for scientific research! My project, part of my Ph.D. dissertation research, is looking at the feeding ecology of local species of sharks with the goal of generating data that can help managers to conserve and protect these species. I’d appreciate any assistance you can provide in terms of either donating funds to the project or helping to spread the word.

A donation of any size is helpful, but larger donations have rewards associated with them, including the opportunity to join us for a day of shark research, or the opportunity to name one of our satellite tagged sharks and track it on Google Earth.

I’ll post frequent updates here, on twitter, and on my Facebook page. Please let me know if you have any questions about the project!

My project can be found here.

SciFund challenge background: 6 questions you can answer about shark feeding ecology with stable isotope analysis

scifundAs many of you have heard, I have a project in the 4th SciFund Challenge, a scientific research crowdfunding organization.  My project, entitled “You are what you eat: non-lethal feeding ecology to help conserve threatened sharks,” is part of my Ph.D. dissertation research. You’ll be hearing a lot more about it over the new few weeks here, on twitter, and on my Facebook page once the challenge officially starts on February 1st. I’d really appreciate your support of my research!

I’ll be using a research technique called stable isotope analysis to study the diet and food web interactions of shark species in Florida. My project (and the research technique) will be briefly explained on my SciFund site, but I wanted to go into more detail about the type of research questions that stable isotope analysis can answer, as well as why this kind of data is significant.

Feeding ecology is important to the conservation and management of sharks.

An emerging trend in marine conservation is “ecosystem based fisheries management”, which means that managers would consider the diet and food web interactions of species of interest. An effective ecosystem-based fisheries management plan would require, among other things, detailed diet and food web interaction data. We can better conserve and protect threatened marine life such as sharks if we better understand their biology and ecology, including what they eat. Over 100 priority research questions for shark conservation were identified in a 2011 research paper (available open access here), and several of these are related to feeding ecology and ecosystem role.

The traditional method for studying the diet of sharks is called stomach content analysis, which typically involves cutting open the stomach of a shark to examine what is inside. Southern Fried Science writer Chuck used a non-lethal alternative that involved pumping the sharks’ stomachs, but that is far less commonly performed. While direct and effective, this kind of lethal sampling research may not be appropriate for certain threatened species of sharks. Stable isotope analysis, which requires only a small tissue sample, can be performed non-lethally.

Stable isotope analysis background information

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