HCAS Research on Hammerhead Shark Migrations Identifies their Seasonally Resident Areas


Hammerhead sharks are some of the most iconic and unique-looking creatures in our oceans. While some may think they look a bit “odd,” one thing researchers agree on is that little is known about them. Many of the 10 hammerhead shark species are severely overfished worldwide for their fins and in need of urgent protection to prevent their extinction.

To learn more about a declining hammerhead species that is data poor but in need of conservation efforts,  a team of researchers from NSU’s  Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Research Center (SOSF SRC) and Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI), Fish Finder Adventures, the University of Rhode Island and University of Oxford (UK), embarked on a study to determine their migration patterns in the western Atlantic Ocean.

The research team satellite tagged sharks off the US Mid-Atlantic coast and then tracked the sharks for up to 15 months. The sharks were fitted with fin-mounted satellite tags that reported the sharks’ movements in near real time via a satellite link to the researchers.

“Getting long-term, high resolution tracks was instrumental in identifying not only clear seasonal travel patterns but also the times and areas where the sharks were resident in between their migrations – key information for management action to help build back this depleted species,” said Ryan Logan, a Ph.D., student at the Halmos College of Arts & Sciences and Guy Harney Oceanographic Research Center (HCAS), GHRI and SOSF SRC, and first author of the newly published research.

The researchers found that the sharks acted like snowbirds, migrating between two seasonally resident areas – in coastal waters off New York in the summer and off North Carolina in the winter.

“The high resolution movements data showed these focused wintering and summering habitats off North Carolina and New York, respectively, to be prime ocean “real estate” for these sharks and therefore important areas to protect for the survival of these near endangered animals,” said Mahmood Shivji, Ph.D., professor in the HCAS and director of the GHRI and SOSF SRC, who oversaw the study.

Identifying such areas of high residency provides targets for designation as “Essential Fish Habitat” – an official title established by the US Government, which if formally adopted can subsequently be subject to special limitations on fishing or development to protect such declining species. The tracking data also revealed a second target for conservation. The hammerheads spent a lot of resident time in the winter in a management zone known as the  Mid-Atlantic Shark Area (MASA) – a zone already federally closed for seven-months per year (January 1 to July 31) to commercial bottom longline fishing to protect another endangered species, the dusky shark. However, the tracking data showed that the smooth hammerheads arrived in the MASA earlier in December, while this zone is still open to fishing.

“Extending the closure of the MASA zone by just one month, starting on December 1 each year, could reduce the fishing mortality of juvenile smooth hammerheads even more”, said Shivji.

The tracks of the smooth hammerheads (and other shark species) can be found at

www.ghritracking.org. For more information about the project, please contact Shivji at mahmood@nova.edu

Marine Environmental Education Center to Receive Living Florida Coral Reef Exhibit

NSU Marine Environmental Education Center (MEEC) is getting a new addition!

To help educate the public about the wonders, beauty and threats to Florida’s coastal water ecosystems, a new coral reef exhibit is being installed at the MEEC that features live native corals, fish, and invertebrates. This first tank is more than 300 gallons and should be up and running by early 2021. Two additional exhibit tanks are planned to focus on the critical importance of mangroves and sea grasses. This exhibit is joining “Captain,” the green sea turtle who is the permanent resident – and environmental ambassador – at NSU’s MEEC.

“This project fits right in with the mission of the MEEC,” said Derek Burkholder, Ph.D., research scientists and director of the center. “Educating the public about our marine environments is vital and by brining attention to the plight of our coral reefs, we’re adding a new dimension to our outreach efforts.”

Initial funding was spearheaded by the regional nonprofit organization, Friends of Our Florida Reefs (FOFR). Generous donors have already committed $7,500 to kick start a ‘challenge match’ campaign for the exhibit. By the end of 2020, FOFR hopes to contribute at least $15,000 depending upon additional public donations towards the budget for the living coral reef tank and detailed informational signage.

Gifts of any size may be donated directly to FOFR (via the website, Facebook page, or mail) for the match challenge. Donors contributing $100 or more for the MEEC reef tank match will be invited to submit names for established coral colonies living along the southeast Florida reefs, and donors contributing $250 or more will have the opportunity to submit names for a limited number of corals to be placed in the MEEC tank.

NSU’s MEEC will provide additional funding and expert maintenance, while also fundraising for the remaining two tanks to highlight local mangrove and seagrass communities.

“As with coral reefs around the Earth, Florida’s long-lived corals have come under considerable stress over the last 30 years,” said FOFR Co-founder Scott Sheckman. “It’s critical that we do all we can to increase public awareness and appreciation of these living treasures, and reduce many man-made stressors on what remains healthy and restorable.”

FOFR is the dedicated Citizen Support Organization for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Coral Reef Conservation Program, which manages the northern section of Florida’s Coral Reef from the St. Lucie Inlet to the northern border of Biscayne National Park.

“Florida’s Coral Reef has been decimated by stony coral tissue loss disease, a serious outbreak that started in 2014,” said Melissa Sathe, FOFR’s President. “We are excited to partner with NSU which is on the forefront of disease research and reef restoration to bring awareness to our beautiful reefs.”

DEP also co-manages the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary with NOAA. DEP is working alongside NSU/MEEC to create the new displays for the first exhibit tank.

Dr. Hum Contest Winners Announced!

This fall, NSU’s Center for the Humanities announced its new Dr. Hum: Ask Me Anything video blog series. Each episode invites a new Dr. Hum, or humanities professor, to answer YOUR questions about the humanities. As part of this new launch, the Center for the Humanities hosted a contest inviting students to submit questions about anything ‘humanities’. This October, Dr. Hum will release responses to the top contest winners on Instagram (@nsu_humanities) and YouTube! The first video, set to release on October 2, will address Meroshah Khan’s “Most Timely Question”! Look out for more Dr. Hum videos in late October! While the contest is over, the Dr. Hum series still welcomes your questions. Submit your questions about anything ‘humanities’ to humanities@nova.edu! All students of all majors welcome!

Here are the winners:

“Most Timely Question” Award

  • “Now that Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s term as a Supreme Court justice has unfortunately ended, what does this mean for the Supreme Court in terms of the next appointed judge? How does someone get nominated for the position?” -Meroshah Khan, Political Science Major, Class 2023

 “Most Universal Question” Award (Three-way Tie)

  • “Has the introduction of the internet created more connections or divisions?” – Jamie Thompson, Psychology Major, Class 2022
  • “Has technology aided us to save time and energy in the time budget model or has it depleted our cognitive abilities pertaining to socialization? Is technology worth it?” -Ashley Guillen-Tapia, Biology Major, Class 2024
  • “How have the humanities helped us progress as a society and how do we decipher the things that may be hurting our progression? i.e. social media/technology.” -Emily Falcon, Biology Major, Class 2024

“Heart” Award

  • “Throughout our lives we’re told how in many situations we don’t really know ourselves. Exactly what would be factors for oneself to know that he truly understands himself?” – Joseph Nahon, Computer Science Major, Class 2024


NSU Undergraduate Online Journal MAKO Publishes Fall Issue

The NSU-wide Undergraduate Student Journal, MAKO has just released a new issue. NSU Librarian Keri Baker assisted Halmos College faculty members Aarti Raja, Ph.D. (Editor-in-Chief) and Santanu De, Ph.D. (Associate Editor) with the publication process.  Two of the articles were by Halmos College students, co-authored and mentored by Emily Schmitt Lavin, Ph.D. and Dr. De.

This university-wide, online, open-access, peer-reviewed, free and interdisciplinary journal is housed by NSU Works. It aims to provide an opportunity of publication experience for students at the undergraduate level. All Faculty and faculty-led undergraduate student researchers of all fields are encouraged to connect with MAKO. The next issue will be published in January 2021.

The editorial staff encourages all undergraduate submissions.

Halmos College Instructional Technology & Design Specialist Presents on BlendFlex Learning

On September 22, Halmos College Instructional Technology & Design Specialist Judith Slapak-Barksi, Ph.D. presented her talk, “A Hybrid First-Year-Experience Course with A Twist: Exploring Uncharted Territory”, at the National Society for Experiential Education’s (NSEE) 49th Annual Conference. The theme of the conference was “Hindsight is 20/20: Using Reflection for Assessment, Program Excellence, and Student Success”

The focus of  Slapak-Barski’s talk was on Blended Learning for a First-Year Experience course. First-Year-Experience courses are designed to support freshman students during their first semester in college. These students typically need a lot of support, so universities usually offer First Year-Experience courses in face-to-face modalities. Last winter, NSU piloted a hybrid First Year-Experience course with the requirement that students attended one face-to-face and one synchronous online session weekly, plus online learning activities. This session reported on the pilot project, discussing recommendations and feedback from the pilot instructors, students, and faculty coordinator.

Halmos Faculty Presents at Virtual Conference on Distance Learning

This fall, Halmos College faculty Santanu De, Ph.D. co-authored a presentation with Eunice Luyegu, CPT, Ph.D. from the Dr. Pallavi Patel College of Health Care Sciences at the Florida Distance Learning Association (FDLA) Annual Conference 2020. Held virtually, their talk was entitled, “Peer-Video-Blog Assessment”.

The conference theme was “Distance Learning: Raising the Bar for K-20”.  The FDLA’s mission is to establish a network of people whose focus is to provide support and cooperative programs and activities through videoconferencing and other distance learning technologies for the betterment of education, local economies, and the community and to collaborate with educational institutions, cultural centers, community groups, service organizations, and government agencies.

Halmos Faculty Brings Marine Genomics to the Public

This fall, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation have initiated a large-scale international Aquatic Symbiosis Genomics project, which includes funding four research “hubs” to organize 50 symbiotic species each for whole genome sequencing at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Hixton England.

One hub will be led by HCAS faculty member Jose V. Lopez, Ph.D. in collaboration with local and international researcher, this hub will focus on studying and sequencing “photosymbiotic” organisms. These partnerships include aquatic animal hosts such as corals, sea slugs or giant clams which depend on microbial symbiotic partners that photosynthesize (the capture of sunlight energy to produce sugars). Dr. Lopez states “indeed most plants and animals harbor microbial symbionts, including humans and bovids, so symbiosis is the rule in nature not the exception. Photosynthesis and symbiosis may represent two of the most fundamental processes that define life on this planet.”

Many aquatic photosymbionts may totally depend on the microbe for existence. For example, reef building corals cannot build their own calcium carbonate skeletons without their dinoflagellate algal symbionts. Corals will eventually perish after bleaching (loss of their photosynthetic algae) for prolonged periods of time. Saccoglossan sea slugs eat photosynthetic algae, but do not fully digest them. The “leftover” chloroplasts become temporarily incorporated into the animal tissue making them essentially solar powered.

Dr. Lopez is the current president of the non-profit Global Invertebrate Genomics Alliance (or GIGA) and teaches a graduate level genomics course.


Halmos Faculty Contributes to Mammalian Reproduction Study

This fall, Halmos College faculty member Santanu De, Ph.D. contributed to an article on mammalian reproduction. The paper, “The14-3-3 (YWHA) Proteins in Mammalian Reproduction”, was published in International Annals of Science journal, Advanced International Journals of Research (AIJR).

The study, encapsulating these key cell cycle-regulatory proteins conserved in most species including humans, will assist a better understanding of the molecular bases of male as well as female infertility, and could also help future development of novel contraceptives.

Halmos College Researcher and Alumni Work to Create Probiotic for Diseased Corals

In early September, researchers at the Smithsonian Marine Station (SMS) partnered with Halmos College Research Scientist Brian Walker, Ph.D. and his GIS and Spatial Ecology laboratory to test two new probiotic application treatments for wild corals infected with stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD).  These treatments, a bag for covering whole colonies and a paste for individual disease lesions, were developed by researchers at SMS, including Halmos College MS alumna Kelly Pitts.

The bag method entailed covering whole Montastraea cavernosa coral colonies with a weighted enclosure, injecting probiotics inside, and waiting two hours before removing the enclosure to allow colonization of the coral with probiotic bacteria. Video of this method can be seen here: https://youtu.be/MnJaA7-SVYA

Additionally, scientists experimented with a probiotic-loaded paste, developed by SMS, to apply treatments directly to individual disease lesions. The paste hardens on contact with seawater to prevent it from floating away, and adheres to the coral tissue, which allows probiotics to colonize the coral.

The research team will revisit treated colonies regularly to assess the probiotics treatment success and retreat the corals if necessary. These two innovative strategies have enabled the first coral probiotic treatments of SCTLD diseased corals on the reef.

Halmos Biology Faculty Appointed as Academic Editor for Medicine Journal

Santanu De, M.Sc., Ph.D.

This fall, Halmos College faculty member Santanu De, M.Sc., Ph.D. was selected as an Academic Editor for articles submitted for publication in the journal, Medicine®. Dr. De was selected for this position based on his record of original research accomplishments in his field.

Medicine® is a fully open access journal, providing authors with a distinctive new service offering continuous publication of original research across a broad spectrum of medical scientific disciplines and sub-specialties.

As an open access title, Medicine® will continue to provide authors with an established, trusted ​platform for the publication of their work. To ensure the ongoing quality of Medicine®’s content, the peer-review process will only accept content that is scientifically, technically and ethically sound, and in compliance with standard reporting guidelines.

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