Students and mentors from Palm Beach Day Academy’s Upper School joined Florida International University scientists on R/V ANGARI for an eventful day of shark science.
April 4, 2022
West Palm Beach, FL
Laura García Barcia
All sharks were fished for, caught, studied and released for research purposes under Florida permits held by Florida International University scientists.
R/V ANGARI welcomed aboard students in Dr. Erin Mitchell’s 7th and 8th grade classes from Palm Beach Day Academy for our Coastal Ocean Explorers: Sharks education program where they were able to learn about and participate in ongoing shark research just off the coast of Palm Beach County. Scientists from Florida International University’s College of Arts, Sciences & Education taught students about how and why they collect data on local shark populations.
Throughout the day, the Palm Beach Day participants worked side-by-side with the scientists to bait circle hooks, assemble, deploy and recover drumlines and record data. Participants learned how to collect length measurements and dorsal fin tissue samples and attach a unique numbered tag to identify the individual if it is ever caught again. There was even an opportunity for the students to feel the sandpaper-like texture produced by dermal denticles on the skin of one of the nurse sharks before it was released. A total of four sharks were caught and released during the trip; two nurse sharks and two tiger sharks!
It was an exciting day of marine science and education, capped off by a visit from bottlenose dolphins playing in R/V ANGARI’s wake as she returned to the dock!
Laura García Barcia is a Ph.D. candidate in the Predator Ecology & Conservation Lab at Florida International University. She is an environmental biologist particularly interested in marine wildlife conservation. Her research focuses on two main topics: the shark fin trade and the impacts of heavy metal pollution on coastal shark species. Through the use of genetics and toxicology, she explores fascinating questions, including the identification of where shark fins sold in Hong Kong come from, whether shark fin soup is a safe product to consume for humans, or at what life stage sharks are more vulnerable to pollutants found in our waters.
The ultimate goal of Laura’s research is to inform conservation measures that help improve the status of shark populations. Working towards this same goal, Laura is passionate about education and serves as the lead scientist and mentor for ANGARI’s Coastal Ocean Explorers: Sharks at-sea education program aboard R/V ANGARI. The program enables youth and educators to work side-by-side with FIU researchers to study sharks offshore Palm Beach County.