Heithaus Lab Blog launches with shark research trip to La Réunion

Mike Heithaus, executive director of the School of Environment, Arts and Society and marine sciences professor, has launched the Heithaus Lab Blog.

The blog highlights work from long-term studies in Shark Bay, Australia and the Florida Everglades, as well as newer studies across the globe.

Screen shot 2013-05-15 at 12.00.32 PMMost recently, Heithaus and Jeremy Kiszka, a doctoral student in the FIU Marine Sciences Program, embarked on a five-day research trip to Réunion, the French island off the eastern coast of Madagascar. The duo is investigating the ecology and habitat-use of tiger sharks and bull sharks around the island. In collaboration with a team from the Institute of Research for Development, the researchers are deploying cameras on 15-20 sharks in the preliminary phase of gathering information on the fish. Local IRD scientists will continue to deploy cameras on a larger sample of sharks to collect data.

“Very little is known on the dietary habits of these sharks, so we will investigate their patterns of habitat use, behavior and interactions with prey,” Heithaus said. “Our ultimate goals are to understand what drives shark behavior to help minimize negative shark-human encounters and the importance of these sharks to coral reef ecosystems.”

The La Réunion island project was commissioned following fatal shark attacks that occurred off the west coast of the island in 2012. Heithaus’ current research trip runs through May 16.

Heithaus is an expert on predators, specifically sharks. His research focuses on the role of behavior in driving the dynamics of marine communities and the ecological role of large predators.