MIAMI – June 23, 2011 -- In the past 50 years, approximately 80 percent of all sharks have disappeared – this includes the shark populations off the coast of the Sunshine State.
The University of Miami's R.J. Dunlap (RJD) Marine Conservation Program was awarded a $30,000 grant by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF) to conduct research designed to further shark conservation off the Florida coast. The grant has the potential of reaching a total of $120,000 over the next four years.
"The ocean's top predators are under unprecedented pressure from unsustainable fishing practices and changes in the ocean chemistry," said world-renowned marine artist and biologist Dr. Guy Harvey. "This research will give us great insight into how their removal will impact the entire marine ecosystem."
Headed by Dr. Neil Hammerschlag, the RJD Program is investigating the effects on the ecosystem structure due to overfishing top predators. "Models have indicated that a decline in top predators will decrease the number of economically important fishes, and even a loss of important habitats such as coral reefs," according to the proposal.
The team will conduct a series of field and laboratory studies including field surveys, stable isotope analysis, genetic analysis and blood hormone analysis. Taken in marine protected areas and areas subject to fishing throughout the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas, field studies will be used to determine community structure and patterns.
In conducting its research the RJD Program takes high school students on trips to provide hands on opportunities for them to understand the importance of marine conservation. They are supervised as they help to measure the sharks, take DNA samples and attach tags, among other tasks that can leave a lasting mark on their educational future.
About the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation
The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation will help ensure that future generations will enjoy and benefit from a naturally balanced ocean ecosystem where fish and other marine wildlife flourish. Through the support of the Foundation's visionary friends, leading scientists will develop new strategies for sensible fisheries management, encouraging the cooperation of commercial and recreational fishers, and educators will create novel instructional programs to stimulate future scientists and new stewards of the marine environment. For more information, please visit http://www.guyharveyoceanfoundation.org.
About the University of Miami and the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program
The University of Miami is the largest private research institution in the southeastern United States. The University's mission is to provide quality education, attract and retain outstanding students, support the faculty and their research, and build an endowment for University initiatives.
Founded in 2009, the R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program is a joint program of the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science and the Leonard and Jayne Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy at the University of Miami. The Rosenstiel School offers one of largest, most comprehensive marine and atmospheric programs in the nation. The Abess Center encourages innovative interdisciplinary initiatives that bridge the gap between hard science and environmental policy. For more information or to get involved, please visit www.rjd.miami.edu.