Dr. Catherine Macdonald, shark expert

by | Aug 23, 2023

Dr. Catherine Macdonald–a marine conservation biologist and assistant professor at the University of Miami, who conducts, and oversees, research on sharks—recalls a childhood less enamored of the sea, at first, than of mud. This, Macdonald says, was part of being a kid who loved being outdoors, exploring nature, endlessly curious, and not at all opposed to getting dirty. (Or muddy.) She recounts what she later realized was a pivotal moment during her formative years, as someone who later became a shark expert: She was swimming with family members when a Bonnethead was pulled from the water, onto the beach, owing to the adults’ concern for the kids’ safety. But when she examined the beached Bonnethead and thought about the situation, she decided it was the other way around: her family members, and other humans in the water, were perfectly safe–they posed the danger to this shark. Macdonald remembers that this incident spurred an insatiable curiosity about sharks, and she began checking out every book on the topic from the school library. Fast Forward to 2023: Mentioning there are 530 types of sharks, Macdonald discusses the research she conducts, focusing on juvenile and small-bodied sharks, noting her team made the significant discovery, in Biscayne Bay, of a nursery for baby sharks—a truly rare finding, not to mention these babies were critically-endangered Hammerheads. Demonstrating she’s a really good sport, Macdonald agrees to comment on recent spate of shark attacks and sightings that have dominated the news this summer. She weighs in on the question of whether this media furor represents significantly more shark action or better, broader reporting of shark action? Macdonald allows that there is indeed more shark activity, as part of her broader unofficial theory that a segment of the population, finding itself with more leisure time, is spending hunks of that additional time in the sea—surfing, snorkeling, paddleboarding, scuba diving, etc.—yielding a larger pool of people who could, and do, have shark encounters. We touch on a number of other topics, from biteprinting to the phrase “unprovoked attack.” (https://www.drcatherinemacdonald.com/, https://sharkresearch.earth.miami.edu/)


ALSO: I spoke briefly with Eric Keaton, chief marketing officer at SPCA Tampa Bay, which is presenting Clear the Shelters, its annual no-fee adoption event—part of a national campaign—on Saturday, August 26. Keaton explained that cats and dogs will be available Saturday, but other animals—including so-called “pocket pets” have already been available, for no adoption fee this month, and some will continue to be similarly available thru the end of August—among them, seven potbellied pigs, including one named Porkahontas. Keaton notes that the shelter’s number of adoptions increases dramatically for events and campaigns where the fee is waived. And in response to a mention of a longstanding philosophical debate in the shelter world—does charging no adoption fee yield major minuses for some of those waived-fee adoptions—Keaton says he considers this a myth, and says SPCA Tampa Bay’s careful; process tends to ensure successful, enduring adoptions.  (https://spcatampabay.org/, https://www.instagram.com/spcatampabay/, https://www.facebook.com/SPCATampaBay)

COMEDY CORNER: Mark Takemiya’s “Punch A Shark In The Face”

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE:  We didn’t play “Name That Animal Tune” today.


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