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Press Release for Thursday, March 10, 2016

UNF Shark Expert Only Local Lead Scientist Aboard Jacksonville OCEARCH Expedition

Media Contact: Joanna Norris, Director
Department of Public Relations
(904) 620-2102

 In 2013, Great White shark Lydia was captured, tagged and released aboard
OCEARCH’s unique vessel in Jacksonville. Since then, the 2,000-pound shark has traveled over 35,500 miles, demonstrating the connectivity of Florida waters with Northeastern Atlantic waters off Europe.

OCEARCH is now returning for its 24th expedition, generating scientific data critical to ocean conservation. The focus will be white sharks on this second local expedition, which begins Wednesday, March 16, and ends Saturday, April 2, off Jacksonville, which will include for the first time, the Southern Coast of Georgia.

OCEARCH has assembled a multi-institutional, collaborative science team to gather data to further the understanding of the ecology, physiology, and behavior of white sharks in the Atlantic Ocean. Dr. Jim Gelsleichter, director of the University of North Florida’s Shark Biology Program and associate professor of biology, is the only local researcher to be aboard the expedition.

Other lead scientists include Dr. Gregory Skomal, senior scientist at MA Marine Fisheries and Dr. Robert Hueter, director of the Center for Shark Research at Mote Marine Laboratory. Partnering with OCEARCH will give this world-class group of scientists direct access to live and mature animals, allowing them to maximize the studies on each shark. Gelsleichter’s focus will be the aspects of reproduction in white sharks.

“Little is known of the reproductive biology of the white shark in the North Atlantic,” he said. “We will take advantage of direct access to live animals on OCEARCH to continue our efforts to better understand how white sharks become reproductively mature, where and when they breed, and how rapidly they replace themselves.”

Gelsleichter and his team will obtain blood for the analysis of reproductive hormones (estradiol and progesterone for females, testosterone for males) using commercially available chemiluminescence immunoassays. In addition, ultrasound technology will be used to assess the reproductive status of females. In males, clasper characteristics will be qualified and
quantified. His objectives are to assess reproductive condition, reproductive cycle, gestation period and fecundity.

Gelsleichter, who has conducted research on sharks and its relatives for more than 20 years, joined UNF as an assistant professor of biology in August 2008. He teaches courses in shark biology, endocrinology, and toxicology as well as manages a large, well-funded research program, the UNF Shark Biology Program. Prior to arriving at UNF, he worked as a staff scientist and research program director in Mote Marine Laboratory’s Center for Shark Research for a decade.

The UNF Shark Biology Program conducts research on three major topics: the ecology of shark populations in Northeast Florida waters, reproductive biology and physiology of shark and their relatives as well as the effects of environmental pollutants on sharks and other fish species.

Anyone can follow the OCEARCH expedition by accessing the near-real time, free online Global Shark Tracker or by downloading the Global Shark Tracker App available for Apple and Android platforms. Be sure to check out the UNF Biology Shark Program Facebook page at and for up-to-the minute photos of Gelsleichter and his team working on the expedition.
UNF, a nationally ranked university located on an environmentally beautiful campus, offers students who are dedicated to enriching the lives of others the opportunity to build their own futures through a well-rounded education.