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FIU shark experts
Credit: Global FinPrint

FIU shark experts

June 30, 2023 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 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, 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 highlights: 
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 over 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. Papastamatiou has over 1,500 dives and is certified in most forms of scientific and technical diving. He is interested in the ecology of mesophotic reefs and in the use of technical diving for underwater exploration. A native of London, Papastamatiou has conducted research in California, Florida, Hawaii, South Africa, French Polynesia, Japan, Mexico 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
When sharks need a power nap, they go surfing
Humans are greater threat to sharks, not the other way around

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


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.


Erin Spencer

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

Spencer is a marine ecologist and National Geographic Explorer. She uses biologgers, or animal-mounted data-collecting devices, to study the movement and behavior of great hammerhead sharks. Her work dives into these critically endangered animals' energy use, swim patterns and thermal tolerance. Before 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, Fields is a Ph.D. candidate under the joint supervision of FIU researchers Demian Chapman and Yannis Papastamatiou. After finishing her bachelor’s degree in neuroscience, she spent two years at the Cape Eleuthera Institute where she was a key member on the pelagic research team and is currently an adjunct scientist. Field’s research focuses on the population dynamics and geographic population structure of large predators, with a particular focus on the critically endangered oceanic whitetip shark. She's passionate about shark conservation and being a Bahamian advocate for the protection and importance of sharks and rays in the Bahamas.


Devanshi Kasana

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

Kasana is a Ph.D. candidate under the supervision of Demian Chapman. Her research specifically focuses on tracking shark fisheries and meat trade in Central America. She wants to build baselines for catch and consumption at national scales to understand the supply chain between Belize and Guatemala, predominantly driven by demand for shark meat. Around the world, the trade in shark meat continues to surpass fins contributing to food security and livelihoods in many coastal areas globally. Kasana was also a part of the team that discovered a sleeper shark in the Caribbean.

Research highlight: 
Mysterious arctic shark spotted in the Caribbean


Cindy Gonzalez

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

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. Candidate
Heithaus Lab
College of Arts, Sciences & Education

Casareto is a Ph.D. candidate 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. She's currently the Rookery Bay Research Reserve Fellow and the lead scientist for FIU's partnership with the nonprofit ANGARI

Instagram: @bluewavz