Meet Our Sharktastic Scientists!
When it comes to shark science, we have some of the top expertise in the country. From coast to coast, more than 40 scientists conduct research to support the conservation and management of 44 shark species in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
In fact, our Apex Predators Program is the oldest shark research program in the country and celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Its mission is to conduct life history studies of commercially and recreationally important shark species, gathering information that helps provide baseline biological data for the management of large Atlantic sharks.
But wherever shark research is taking place, it’s a lot like the scientists who conduct it: diverse and driven. Our shark research runs the full gamut—tagging and tracking, shark ageing, biology, genetic analysis, population dynamics, and habitat studies—just to name a few.
Nancy Kohler, Chief of NOAA Fisheries' Apex Predators Program
The Apex Predators Program of NOAA Fisheries’ Northeast Fisheries Science Center provides baseline biological data and essential fish habitat information, and allows us to monitor the distribution and abundance of shark species. We conduct fishery-independent longline surveys of large and small coastal sharks in U.S. waters from Florida to Delaware and collect biological and catch data at recreational fishing tournaments in the northeast United States. We also work with thousands of volunteers throughout the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Mediterranean Sea through the Cooperative Shark Tagging Program. My research focuses on migrations and feeding ecology of Atlantic shark species.
Favorite shark: The blue shark, because of its great beauty and extensive and interesting migrations.
Most memorable shark experience: Working with pioneer shark researchers Jack Casey and Frank Carey, tracking and tagging sharks. My most memorable track was with Frank and other researchers aboard a 50-foot motorsailer where we tracked blue sharks on the continental shelf for a digestive rate study.
Coolest thing about being a shark scientist: Being up close and personal with these magnificent creatures; going to sea to catch, tag, and release these fish.
Tobey Curtis, NOAA Fisheries Northeast Regional Office
My research focuses on shark and skate fisheries, as well as the distribution, movements, and habitat use of a variety of species. For NOAA Fisheries, I help coordinate the management of spiny dogfish and skate fisheries in the Northeast Region.
My unique area of shark expertise is electronic tagging and tracking and using GIS to analyze movements and habitat selection.
Favorite shark: The white shark, because of its immense size and spectacular predatory behavior. Even though it may be cliché for shark scientists, in my experience with hundreds of sharks from numerous species, no encounters are more memorable or exciting than those with white sharks. They are amazing and impressive animals, and it’s a rare privilege to interact with them and study them.
Most memorable shark experience: Watching three large (12- to 15-foot) white sharks munch on a dead humpback whale off California—and having one of those sharks try to bite the propeller of our boat’s outboard engine.
Coolest thing about being a shark scientist: Getting to see and handle sharks up close and personal. And since sharks are found in every ocean around the world, I occasionally get to travel to exotic or remote locations to study them.
Heidi Dewar, NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center
My research focuses on tuna, sharks, and billfish in the California Current. I have been tagging and tracking a range of animals for the past 20 years including manta and mobulid rays, basking sharks, mako sharks, and blue sharks. The group that I work in La Jolla focuses on highly migratory species.
I am a trained physiologist, which brings a unique perspective to studies of movement and behaviors, and how sharks use their habitat.
My research focuses on trying to better understand the “decision making” process of sharks by linking physiology, ecology, and environment. We need a better understanding of the movements and habitat use of sharks for management and conservation.
Favorite shark: Basking shark, because they are so large and yet so peaceful.
Most memorable shark experience: Swimming with a black tip reef shark in Bora Bora.
Coolest thing about being a shark scientist: You are up close and personal with creatures that strike fear in the hearts of most, and there is no fear.
Suzanne Kohin, NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center
My research focuses broadly on the biology and population dynamics of pelagic sharks, specifically the shortfin mako, blue, and common thresher sharks, in the northeast Pacific Ocean. Knowing where and when these sharks are abundant is fundamental to understanding their vulnerability to various fisheries throughout their range, information that is useful to fishery managers to promote sustainable fishing practices. I am also part of international working groups that are trying to determine the status of some of the pelagic shark species that range throughout the Pacific, so I travel a lot.
Favorite shark: I can’t say that I really have a favorite shark. I love shortfin makos, common threshers, and blue sharks because those are the ones I work on and have the most experience with, and they are each so unique, beautiful, and mysterious.
Most memorable shark experience: In 2002, I participated in my first NOAA Fisheries survey for juvenile shortfin mako and blue sharks in southern California, and we caught a very large—about 9 feet long—healthy mako shark. The shark seemed so docile, almost unperturbed, as we pulled it toward the boat, but it was clearly watching our every move..
Coolest thing about being a shark scientist: I am always learning something new. There are over 450 species of sharks, and among those there is a wide range of behaviors, body types, habitats, reproductive strategies, and feeding preferences.
Learn More About Our Scientists -- Check out our Shark Week Tweet Chats and Podcast!
John Carlson, Fisheries Biologist
Trey Diggers, Shark Biologist