Back to blogging, (my life is now sharks).

Good morning world, I’m writing this from a cafe in Cornwall, drinking my fourth or fifth coffee of the day, just outside Falmouth where I lived up until recently.

I’m currently on a break from my new job & home, and am trying to use this time to catch up on all things that I’ve let slide whilst I’ve been working, such as writing, drawing, etc. I now live in South Bimini, the Bahamas, a tiny island only 50 miles from Miami, and very far away from the rest of the Bahamas, and also anything I’ve been used to.

I recently started working at the Bimini Biological Field Station Foundation, AKA the Sharklab, as their Media Manager, and it’s been a massive learning curve so far. (The reason I’m telling you all this is not to boast, but just to introduce what I’m currently doing, so that the Shark related posts that will inevitably follow, don’t seem too random and out of place.)

Anyway, back to Bimini. The Sharklab is a world renowned field station, now in it’s 25th year. There’s a number of permanent staff, and a rotation of volunteers, and we all live and work in very close quarters within the same building.

We work long hours, we get few days off, have minimal personal space, and we live on an island where there’s only 2 restaurant/bars, one very small store, and an airport. But, we get to work with sharks.
I’ve never been shark obsessed; I make no secret in the fact that I love all kinds of marine life, and could never choose a favourite, but since working at the lab, I love sharks a hell of a lot more. My experience with sharks was minimal before working here, I’d dived with them a few times, and thought they were pretty cool, but in all honesty I didn’t know much about them. Now I’m lucky enough to live surrounded by scientists, conducting numerous research projects on a range of the species we get around Bimini. I’m happy to say I’m learning a lot more biology, and loving being around active science and being involved in projects that ultimately contribute to marine conservation.

My role is varied, and I won’t go into the details of that too much, but a part of it includes generating media content, and documenting the work we do, i.e. a fair amount of photography. And this is what I’ll be focusing on in the coming weeks in this blog, sharing one or two images of a specific species, with a little about the story behind the image(s).

Shark numero uno…

The first shark I encountered in Bimini was a juvenile tiger shark.

I was lucky enough to arrive around the time of our monthly longline set. And before you panic, this isn’t the usual kind of longlining that you may have heard as being awful, this is shallow water, very small scale longlines, that are checked every few hours. You can read more about it on the lab’s website here (http://www.biminisharklab.com/research/researchtechniques).

Tiger sharks, Galeocerdo cuvier, are fairly common around here, and as a species worldwide they are listed as near threatened by the IUCN. We encounter juvenile, semi adult, and mature tigers, unlike some of the other species we work with around here.

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That’s my first ever tiger shark image, and definitely not one of my best, but it sets the scene for you. (It’s not always that calm and sunny out there as well!).

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This is my favourite juvenile tiger shark image to date, which is in fact a screenshot from a clip, filming the release of this individual after a work-up whilst one of our college field courses were visiting. A work-up varies on details, but involves taking data for each individual shark; measurements, DNA & isotope samples. Also, we tag our sharks with PIT tags, an ID tag like a microchip. They sometimes are implanted with acoustic transmitters, meaning we can pick up their movements on receivers we have around the island. I love the patterns on juvenile tigers, look at those spots on the tail! Seriously beautiful.

Since living in Bimini, I’ve worked with adult tiger sharks too, but honestly I don’t have anywhere near as many photos of these yet. This is something I’m hoping to improve upon in my future at the lab, and safe to say I’m excited to see what this adventure brings!

Part of my job is to run the social media pages of the lab – if you’d like to see more photos of sharks and learn more about what we get up to there do follow the following links:

https://www.facebook.com/biminisharklab

https://twitter.com/BiminiSharkLab

http://www.instagram.com/biminisharklab/

Thanks for reading! Lemon sharks will be featured next!

www.charlottesams.com

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Cetacean autopsy photos

Yes, I know, I’ve been awful at writing posts recently. Third year of my degree and an unwillingness to refuse any opportunity is the cause. But I’m actively making an effort now! I do tend to update my facebook page a little more frequently, so if you wish to follow that, this is the link here!

So lots of exciting things have been going on recently, but I’m going to talk about this week as it’s fresh in my mind. On monday and tuesday of this week, myself and a team of 3 others were filming a seal and porpoise autopsy, for Exeter university, who share a campus with us studying at Falmouth university. The autopsy was conducted by scientists from the Exeter Environment and Sustainability Institute (also based on the same campus), including external scientists and assistants.

This was a fantastic experience, not only to be able to sit in and watch purely from an interest point of view, but also to be able to help set-up the live streaming, the audio, and then also filming for an edit was a lot of fun.

Collectively, the team is going to work on an edit which we will aim to produce in the near future, but for now I’m just going to share a few stills, though I didn’t actually take many over the two days. Be warned.. these may look a little gory..

Autopsy on day 1 – the porpoise was actually found to have died due to bottlenose dolphin attack. This can often happen, just a random act of aggression on the dolphins part – they aren’t always a lovely smiling animal!

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The harbour porpoise on day 1 was also found to be pregnant! This is a baby harbour porpoise, probably about 30cm in length, taken out of the uterus. It does make the dolphin attack seem a little more harsh knowing that this tiny porpoise also died for no reason. _DSC4763

Autopsy day 2 – A new porpoise and seal, though due to the angle I have very few shots of the seal. The scientists assess the body and take measurements; this harbour porpoise was much smaller than the first. _DSC4781

Mid autopsy – samples of blood and organs were collected for further analysing. This porpoise was discovered to have died from fishing; bycatch or similar. Another massive shame, and hopefully in the future we can prevent so many unnatural cetacean deaths. _DSC4818That’s it, just a brief blog, apologies for the sombre tone. It really was a fascinating couple of days and not all about death!

Thanks to all the scientists, assistants and everyone involved, and for letting us be a part of it. The short film shall appear online in the near future so watch this space!

http://www.charlottesams.com