Kiszka will join a team of shark scientists on “Return to Shark Island,” which airs 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1.
Located in the Indian Ocean, La Réunion has seen a shark spike in shark attacks in recent years. Now, the researchers will work to unravel what the drivers behind these attacks might be — and if anything can be done to prevent them.
Kiszka has previously conducted work on shark attacks in La Réunion. His research lies broadly in the ecology, behavior and conservation of large marine vertebrates, including whales and dolphins, sea turtles and sharks. He is particularly interested in understanding how changes in their abundance and behavior, as well as fisheries and human activities, may affect the structure and function of their ecosystems. Kiszka conducts research in the western Indian Ocean (Madagascar and the Mozambique Channel islands), South Pacific (French Polynesia and New Caledonia), and the Caribbean.
Papastamatiou will go in search of the Guadalupe Kill Zone in “Great White Kill Zone: Guadalupe,” which airs 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1.
Guadalupe Island, located 150 miles off the coast of Baja California, is a hot spot for great white sharks that congregate to target the thriving seal populations. The silent hunters stalk their prey and launch surprise attacks. Oddly, an attack has never been witnessed in this specific hotspot. Adding to the mystery, the waters off Guadalupe Island are crystal clear and the sharks are in plain sight. Hotspots are defined as the locations where sharks traditionally gather to feed and no one knows where Guadalupe’s lies.
Papastamatiou, along with FIU graduate student Sarah Luongo, set out to record white shark hunting behaviors using cutting-edge technology and three kinds of special cameras to solve the mystery and locate the Guadalupe Kill Zone. The episode was filmed on location around Guadalupe Island, as well as at FIU.
Papastamatiou is an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. With close to 60 research publications, he’s one of the world’s leading shark behavioral ecologists. Papastamatiou’s use of new tag technologies on species ranging from pelagic oceanic whitetips to home-ranging reef sharks has advanced the field of predator ecology and led to evidence-based marine protected area zoning. His work has been featured on Discovery Channel, National Geographic and BBC.
This year, Papastamatiou also appeared in “Cannibal Sharks”on National Geographic’s SharkFest with Mike Heithaus, dean of the College of Arts, Sciences & Education, and Demian Chapman, associate professor of marine sciences.
Why has this tiny island seen a sharp rise in shark bites?
The small French Island of La Réunion has become a hotbed for shark bites, and people may be partly to blame.
According to a study co-authored by FIU marine biologist Jeremy Kiszka, the natural behavior of sharks in the Western Indian Ocean is part of the problem. The significant development of the island’s west coast is the other.
“With an increase in people and an increase in the population of bull sharks, we might have a deadly equation,” Kiszka said.