We are calling this Shark School with Richard, but in reality, I’m the one who went to class as a student of the UNF Shark Biology Program.
I remember the first time I swam without assistance. I yelled to my mom and dad, “Here I go” and splash! I have been in the water ever since.
I love water in all its states. Freshly fallen snow on an untouched slope or churning tropical waves -- they make me smile. When we enjoy time in fresh or salt water, we are the visitors, really more like aliens. No fins. No scales. No gills. We are bipeds in an aquatic environment.
I respect anything with a tail. They can swim faster and usually have way more teeth than me.
As I said, I respect them and their habitat. In all honesty, though, my heart still jumps when I see a fin pop out of the surf or while in our tannic river, a harmless mullet splashes inches from my float.
In 2020 there were 129 alleged shark-human interactions worldwide -- as in the whole globe -- of which 75% is H2O.
Unprovoked encounters: 57. Provoked: 39 -- 1 in a public aquarium -- 3 were doubtful and the rest made up -- no assignment, not confirmed or a bite on a boat, literally the boat.
Florida tops the global chart and has the most U.S. bites, followed by Hawaii. But it’s not even close, 16 to 5. Yay Florida! Volusia County making up 50% of reported cases in Florida.
So why was I on a boat looking for sharks? For one, I always say they are not shark attacks, they’re shark bites. And two, I wanted to know more about our local species of sharks so I can explain why they are an important part of our saltwater ecology.
I joined students Amanda Schaaf and Kristen Palmrose with Dr. James Gelsleichter as they researched the ecology of shark populations in our waters, the reproductive biology and physiology of sharks and the effects of environmental pollutants on sharks and other fish species.