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FIU shark experts
Credit: Global FinPrint

FIU shark experts

June 29, 2022 at 11:00am

FIU has some of the top marine researchers in the country, including several focused on the science of sharks. They are available for interviews in English, Spanish and Greek.

Members of FIU's College of Arts, Sciences & Education communications team are available to assist members of the media in contacting experts:


Mike Heithaus

Executive Dean and Marine Ecologist
College of Arts, Sciences & Education

Well-known internationally through his research on the ecological role of large sharks both in Australian and Florida waters, Mike Heithaus also serves as the executive dean of the College of Arts, Sciences & Education at FIU. He currently conducts research using cutting-edge technology, including cameras worn by animals, to unravel the lives of hard-to-study marine creatures from whales and dolphins to sharks, seals and turtles. His lab’s work in Shark Bay, Australia is the most detailed study of the ecological role of sharks in the world and has been used as the underpinning for affecting positive policy changes in shark conservation initiated by several prominent Non-Governmental Organizations. He also serves as a member of the science advisory committee for Pew Environment’s International Shark Campaign and was one of the lead researchers for Global FinPrint.

Research highlight: 
When devastation strikes the oceans, sharks can hold the key

Twitter: @MikeHeithaus
Instagram: @mike_heithaus


Yannis Papastamatiou

Associate Professor and Marine Biologist
Department of Biological Sciences
College of Arts, Sciences & Education

With close to 100 research publications, Papastamatiou is 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 appeared on National Geographic and BBC. A native of London, Papastamatiou has conducted research in California, Florida, Hawaii, South Africa and throughout the Mediterranean and Northern Pacific Ocean. He earned a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Papastamatiou is fluent in Greek.

Research highlights:
The secret social lives of great white sharks
Sharks get by with a little help from their friends
When sharks need a power nap, they go surfing

Twitter: @Dr_Yannis
Instagram: @yannispapastamatiou


Diego Cardeñosa

Distinguished Postdoctoral Scholar
College of Arts, Sciences & Education

Cardeñosa uses DNA detective work to uncover the mysteries of the global shark fin trade. He’s led groundbreaking research to trace fins back to their source. With funding from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Cardeñosa also created a portable, easy-to-use DNA testing toolkit that gives customs officials and inspection personnel the power to identify illegal species on-site and have the proof to prosecute crimes. The tool is being used in Hong Kong and Peru with great success. Cardeñosa is available for interviews in Spanish.

Research highlights:
Eastern Pacific is a major supply chain for illegal shark fin trade
Silky sharks find hope in the Atlantic
DNA test kit saves thousands of Earth's most bizarre turtles

Twitter: @DiegoCardenosa
Instagram: @diegocardenosa


Laura García Barcia 

Ph.D. Candidate 
Predator Ecology & Conservation Lab and Heithaus Lab
College of Arts, Sciences & Education

García Barcia is an environmental biologist particularly interested in marine wildlife conservation. Her current 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 is looking to identifying where shark fins sold in Hong Kong come from — and whether shark fin soup is a safe product to consume for humans. The ultimate goal of Laura’s research is to inform conservation measures that help improve the status of shark populations. García Barcia is available for interviews in Spanish. 

Research highlight:
Could mercury temper demand for shark fins? 

Twitter: @lauragbarcia


Erin Spencer

Ph.D. Candidate
Predator Ecology & Conservation Lab
College of Arts, Sciences & Education

Spencer is a marine ecologist and National Geographic Explorer. She studies the movement of great hammerhead sharks and their prey using biologgers that track speed, acceleration, depth, and more. Prior to starting her Ph.D. at FIU, she received her master's from UNC - Chapel Hill where she studied seafood mislabeling and recreational red snapper fisheries. Spencer is also an avid science writer and speaker with a focus on student audiences, and has published a children's book on coral reefs

Twitter: @etspencer
Instagram: @erintspencer


Candace Fields

Ph.D. Student
Predator Ecology & Conservation Lab
College of Arts, Sciences & Education

Originally from The Bahamas, Candace Fields is a Ph.D. student under the joint supervision of Chapman and Papastamatiou. After finishing her undergraduate degree in Pennsylvania, she spent two years at the Cape Eleuthera Institute where she was a key member on the pelagic research team. Candace’s research focuses on the population dynamics and geographic population structure of large predators. She's passionate about shark conservation and being a Bahamian advocate for the protection and importance of sharks and rays in the Bahamas


Cindy Gonzalez

Ph.D. Candidate
Predator Ecology & Conservation Lab
College of Arts, Sciences & Education

Cindy Gonzalez is a molecular ecologist who uses her genetics knowledge to describe new shark species and help in management and conservation decisions. Her current research focuses on resolving th origins of the bonnethead shark complex and to explore shark DNA to find the patterns for the evolutive radiation of the small hammerhead sharks that are only distributed in the American continent. With these findings, Gonzalez will be able to produce an updated phylogeny for the family Sphyrnidae that will contribute to fisheries management and conservation decisions in Latin America. With just a little fin clip from a shark, Cindy can answer some of the most interesting questions in the fields of shark biology and evolution.



Sara Casareto

Ph.D. Student
Heithaus Lab
College of Arts, Sciences & Education

Sara Casareto is a Ph.D. student working on behavioral ecology, focused on elasmobranch biology and ecology. Her dissertation work is looking at juvenile sharks and factors influencing their habitat use and hopes to further her career in predator-prey interactions, elucidate management and conservation strategies for shark and ray populations.

Twitter: @saracasareto
Instagram: @bluewavz


Mark Bond

Research Assistant Professor
College of Arts, Sciences & Education

Bond’s research focuses on improving the understanding of the ecology of endangered marine wildlife, and the design and implementation of tools and management strategies, to conserve and recover species. His work is a mix of applied field research and international policy work. Current field projects aim to improve the conservation of oceanic whitetip sharks, smalltooth sawfish and great hammerheads sharks.