Shark Week: Meet Biologist Lindsay Graff
Lindsay has undergrad and graduate degrees in marine and shark biology and has had the opportunity to work with sharks all over the world; from the Bahamas to South Africa to Fiji. She has been working in Fiji since 2012, teaching shark studies college courses and focusing on bull shark research with Broadreach and Beqa Adventure Divers. Lindsay set up a baby bull shark tagging program in one of the river systems in Fiji. She has also worked with white sharks in South Africa and lemon, tiger and nurse sharks in the Bahamas. Most recently, Lindsay worked with Dr. Greg Skomal assisting with his white shark research off the coast of Massachusetts before returning to Fiji for another bull shark season.
Thanks Lindsay for sharing your shark adventures with us!
1. What is your favorite shark and why?
Hands-down, my favorite shark is the Great White! I find them to be the most fascinating and magnificent animal in the whole wide world, and I am constantly in a state of awe whenever I am lucky enough to be in their presence. I also have a very special place in my heart for the bull sharks found in the waters around Shark Reef Marine Reserve in Fiji. I’ve been working with them since 2012 and consider them to be an extended part of my underwater family- especially “Lindsay,” my namesake bull shark!
2. What is one species of shark you would like to see on Shark Week?
I would love to see some Tawny nurse sharks on Shark Week because I see them every day on my dives in Fiji and they bring me so much joy with their goofy, inquisitive nature! Their curiosity always adds a very comedic effect to every dive, and it leads to them getting caught in very ridiculous situations (stuck in food bins, etc). A lot of the sharks featured on Shark Week are highlighted for their speed, brawn, and power….so it’s easy to forget that there are hundreds of shark species out there that are unique and remarkable for very different reasons. Also, I’d love to see an “Air Jaws” episode solely made up of breaching Basking Sharks.
3. What is one thing you wish people knew about sharks?
In an ideal world, of course I want everyone on this planet to be as fascinated as I am by these beautiful animals, but a more pragmatic desire is for more people to understand just how vital all shark species are to the health of our world’s oceans. I never leave a lecture or talk expecting everyone to love sharks with the same intensity that I do, but I do hope that every person leaves with newfound respect, or at least the recognition of their importance within our natural world. Our oceans need sharks, and our lives depend upon having healthy oceans, so regardless of your personal viewpoint on those animals, everyone should be working hard to conserve and protect their populations.
4. Can you tell us a little about your current work with sharks?
I’m currently in Fiji for the next few months where I have worked off and on, since 2012. I work with two amazing companies here, Beqa Adventure Divers and Broadreach, and I teach shark biology courses to high school students. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to bring my students straight into the classroom every day, 100 feet underwater, to open up their eyes to the fascinating world of sharks. The lessons that I teach about biology, behavior, threats, etc, are 1000x more impactful when the study subjects are swimming just a foot or two in front of your face, and you are able to personally link the classroom to the real world. I believe that one of the best ways to positively impact the future of sharks and our oceans is to directly impact younger generations in order to ensure that they grow up conserving and protecting what they love. That also encompasses interacting with younger generations in hopes of inspiring more females to enter the field of marine biology, specifically within the shark world. It’s important to ensure that female scientists are easily visible to young girls and to guarantee that there is an abundance of role models and mentors available to help everyone navigate down their path of interest.
5. What has been one of the coolest/most interesting things you have seen/learned working with sharks?
When you truly love what you’re doing and what you’re studying, you find every day within that field to be captivating and interesting! Every single time that I see a shark, no matter the species, no matter how many times I’ve seen it before, I am fascinated. Every great white shark in Cape Cod and South Africa and Guadalupe, every bull in Fiji, every Tiger in the Bahamas (and on and on) takes my breath away and brings me the biggest of smiles! My absolute favorite moment though is when I bring someone out on a boat or underwater on a dive, and I get to see the joy and wonder on their faces the first time they glimpse a shark in real life. It doesn’t matter what movies, tv shows, documentaries you watch or books you read, there is absolutely nothing that compares to seeing these magnificent animals in the wild. It’s the sort of awe that reminds you just how extraordinary the natural world is around us!
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