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UNF Shark Biology Program makes national headlines during Shark Week

Dr. Gelsleichter holding a small bull shark in the water from the side of a research boatDr. Jim Gelsleichter, UNF Shark Biology Program director and assistant professor, has conducted research on sharks and related species for close to 30 years. As UNF’s in-house shark expert, Gelsleichter is sharing his expertise with a national audience through various TV shows and interviews. 

Both National Geographic and Discovery Channel are running Shark Fest/Shark Week programming currently and as summertime weather causes more shark sightings and the occasional encounter, Gelsleichter’s expertise and research are making national attention.

Gelsleichter leads a team of student researchers in the UNF Shark Biology Program who conduct research on three major topics: the ecology of shark populations in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia waters, the reproductive biology of sharks and their relatives, and the effects of environmental pollutants on sharks and other fish species.

The program’s research on population ecology has focused on identifying trends in the species composition, abundance, habitat use patterns, and overall health and stability of shark populations in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia for over 10 years. Their research on reproduction focuses on determining the basic reproductive traits that contribute to shark population growth and stability as well as how hormones regulate various aspects of shark reproduction.

The program also monitors populations of sharks and other fish that have been exposed to environmental pollutants such as mercury, industrial chemicals, oil spills, and microplastics to see if the populations are experiencing health effects that could impair reproduction, survival and overall population stability. 

Prior to coming to UNF in 2008, Gelsleichter worked as a staff scientist and research program director in Mote Marine Laboratory’s Center for Shark Research for a decade.