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South Fork Natural History Museum's Newest Program Focuses On Shark Research And Education

Anastasia Lennon

SoFo has partnered with Long Island Shark Collaboration. (Photo: Justine Dill)

A New Year means new programs at the South Fork Natural History Museum (SoFo), and while 2018 marks the "Year of the Dog," it may be more the "Year of the Shark" at the SoFo. In January, the museum announced the creation of its newest program, the SoFo Shark Research and Education Program, which it describes as an "exciting alliance" with the Long Island Shark Collaboration (LISC).

LISC was founded by Gregory Metzger and Tobey Curtis. LISC's work aims to understand the population dynamics of coastal sharks off Long Island's south shore, and amass data that could be utilized by other scientists and organizations. It was also the first organization to use satellite tags on juvenile great white sharks. In 2015, Metzger, Curtis, and their team collaborated with OCEARCH to tag more sharks off of Montauk.

Metzger and Curtis are experts in their fields. Metzger has been a marine science teacher at Southampton High School since 2001, as well as an adjunct professor of aquaculture at Stony Brook University. Curtis is a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts School for Marine Science and Technology studying fisheries and oceanography, and will be the "Lead Science Collaborator" for this project.

"We have already collected some exciting data on the sharks that frequent Long Island's nearshore waters during the summer, including young white, dusky, thresher, and smooth dogfish sharks," explained Curtis.

The crew tags the first juvenile great white shark in the North Atlantic. (Courtesy Photo)

According to the World Wildlife Fund, shark populations worldwide are rapidly declining for reasons such as climate change, overfishing, habitat loss, and "bycatch" - the term for when aquatic life gets caught in fishing gear such as trawls or nets. "We have a unique opportunity to work with SoFo to gather data that will help in the conservation and management of these vulnerable species," said Curtis.

This new program will bring scientists, educators, and fishermen together for what should be a fruitful collaboration. "We have a gold mine for potential shark research and education here in the Hamptons," said Metzger. "We have experienced great success the last few years, and we are greatly looking forward to future explorations and research."

The goals of the Shark Research and Education Program reflect the museum's mission of advancing knowledge and appreciation of the South Fork's natural history and environs. "Our new shark research and education focus is a natural outgrowth of SoFo's existing programs," said Frank Quevedo, Executive Director of the museum. "Sharks are an important part of Long Island's nearshore ecosystems, and we want to encourage stewardship through the activities of this new program. We are extremely excited to be absorbing this important endeavor."

The South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center was founded in 1988. The museum opened its permanent location in 2005 in Bridgehampton, New York, and is a place for both children and adults to engage with natural history.

SoFo is located at 377 Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike in Bridgehampton. For more information about SoFo, please visit sofo.org.

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