The Effect of Caudal Stimulation on Hematological Indicators of Stress in Blacknose Sharks, Carcharhinus Acronotus
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I conducted this study with the mentorship of Field School, particularly its Director, Dr. Catherine Macdonald, and Director of Program Development, Dr. Julia Wester. In 2017, shortly after realizing I wanted to find work in the environmental field, I took an Introduction to Shark Research Skills course with Field School, located in Miami, Florida. Soon after, I entered into an internship with Field School and have continued working with them. Much of their research centers around ecology, physiology, and the human dimensions of conservation of elasmobranchs, the group composed of sharks and rays. I have always gravitated toward the human dimensions of environmental problems because of my background in psychology. Most of the research I have assisted with has been in that realm. However, I wanted to use the Capstone research project as an opportunity to delve into new skills and topics I had not had the opportunity to explore as much. As I neared the end of my time in the Johns Hopkins Environmental Science and Policy (ESP) program, I realized I wanted to use the Capstone to both take advantage of what I have learned and fill the gaps in my education and experience from being a remote student by getting more hands-on field experience. I chose to take on a physiology-focused project in order to gain new skills and explore physiological concepts in a deeper way than I had previously understood them. This project enabled me to tie in my interest in ecology and policy gained from the ESP courses. When I started the program, I deliberated about which track to follow, and ultimately chose not to opt-in to a track, choosing instead to take a wide range of classes from each. By researching this one aspect of shark stress physiology, I’ve acquired new skills while simultaneously touching on a wide variety of topics relevant to my ESP courses. Sound management regulations for sharks and other recreationally and commercially targeted species necessitate a clear understanding of their biology and physiology, especially as it relates to impacts of their harvest on individuals and overall populations. As predators, sharks occupy important niches within their ecosystem, and overexploitation can lead to impacts across all trophic levels within an ecosystem. Due to their ecological, commercial, and cultural importance, it is imperative that efforts be made to understand the scope of and the causes underlying the decline of numerous species, and identify ways to more effectively conserve them. Successful conservation is informed by understanding the interactions between all of these seemingly diverse topics. I was happy this project afforded me the opportunity to synthesize these topics into a single study.