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Behind the Scenes of “Coastal Ocean Explorers: Sharks”

Intern Laura with a nurse shark






By Laura Jessop – Spring and Summer 2022 Intern 

As an ANGARI remote intern, I spend my time helping with social media, content creation, digital marketing and virtual and distance learning education programs. I complete all of these different tasks 4,500 miles away, across the Atlantic in the UK, which is where I live. I love the variation of the tasks that I work on, and of course, jumped at the opportunity to head out to West Palm Beach, Florida to join ANGARI in-person for a two week trip.

COE:Sharks teacher workshop participants
Summer 2022 Coastal Ocean Explorers: Sharks Teacher Workshop participants aboard R/V ANGARI.

Whilst I was in-person at ANGARI, I was lucky enough to take part in four different expeditions (Expedition 47, 48, 49 & 50) which included three Coastal Ocean Explorers: Sharks expeditions, where we teamed up with Florida International University (FIU) scientists to provide students and educators with a hands-on marine science experience. The COE: Sharks expeditions that I took part in were a three-day Teacher Workshop and an education program where students and teachers from Roosevelt Community Middle School were invited onboard R/V ANGARI.

Being able to help with the COE: Sharks Teacher Workshop was definitely the highlight of my trip as it involved so many different activities and allowed me to have my first close-up encounter with a shark (more about that further on in the blog)!

The COE: Sharks Teacher Workshop started with all the teachers, that came from all across Florida, participating in an all-day onshore program. Here they were taught the importance of sharks in the marine ecosystem, different methods that scientists undertake to study sharks and shared educational activities and lessons that have been created to aid teachers in sharing all of this amazing information with their students. Not only did I really enjoy watching the teachers get animated as they described how their students would love to be taught the information they were learning, but I also learnt new things myself that I have since taken away and used in my assessments for my advanced diploma. After the on-shore program was completed, we all headed to R/V ANGARI where we showed the teachers around and introduced them to where they would be for the duration of the Expedition 47 and Expedition 48 offshore days, that were taking place the coming days. Formalities done and it was now time to take part in and enjoy happy hour at the Palm Harbor Marina clubhouse with all the teachers, FIU scientists and ANGARI staff. This was a great time to get to know everyone as we shared stories and experiences while enjoying drinks and canapés.

12.5 foot great hammerhead worked up on R/V ANGARI
The 12.5 foot great hammerhead that we worked up from R/V ANGARI.

The teacher’s workshop experience culminated with shark research expeditions onboard R/V ANGARI offshore Palm Beach County. Here, teachers worked side-by-side with the FIU scientists to prepare, deploy and recover drumlines, which is research specific shark fishing gear designed to reduce stress on the animals. It was during theses expeditions that I was lucky enough to have my first close experience with a shark.

The first shark that we pulled in was a great hammerhead which was an incredible thing to witness, and what made it even more amazing was that it was the largest shark that has ever been work up from R/V ANGARI with FIU scientists to date! She was 12.5 foot (380 cm pre-caudal length) with the biggest dorsal fin I have ever seen and absolutely magnificent to watch. The team tagged her with a noninvasive biologger which was then later recovered the following day as they are designed to release after 24 hours. It goes without saying that the whole boat whooped when the news came through. The whole process was filled with excitement, amazement and pure happiness from start to finish.

Intern Laura with a nurse shark
I can confirm that the texture of the dermal denticles on the surface of the nurse shark’s skin feels a bit like sandpaper.

We then later went on to see another great hammerhead and also had the chance to feel the sandpaper-like texture of the dermal denticles on the skin of two nurse sharks.

The most rewarding part of participating in this program was being able to immerse myself in this exciting and educational environment. It was extremely special to be a part of something that gives teachers a once-in-a-lifetime experience that they can use to educate students and inspire the next generation. There aren’t enough thank you’s in the world for ANGARI for allowing me this opportunity and increasing my passion for this area of work.

Laura Jessop

Laura Jessop

I am an ocean enthusiast that has worked previously and continue to help at Local Ocean Conservation which is a non-profit organisation based in Kenya. I helped with the efforts of protecting sea turtles that have been caught as by-catch in the Indian Ocean. I help them digitalise and manage over 20 years worth of data that they have collected. Currently I am a remote intern here at ANGARI and very excited to help with the amazing work they conduct.

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