Tagging Blue Sharks

Riley Elliott (RE): I’m at the Auckland School of Biological Sciences doing my PhD under the title of ‘Habitat and migration of blue sharks in New Zealand’. I’ve always been an ocean boy, collecting bird’s eggs as a kid, just loving animals. My doctor dad and nurse mum encouraged me to explore nature’s world. My older brother and sister are lawyers and my younger brother is a doctor, so I’m the black sheep! I started at the University of Otago, completing a BSc Honours and Masters degree studying dolphins in Doubtful Sound, Fiordland, under Steve Dawson (Professor of Marine Biology). The dolphins didn’t have the x-factor for me so between my Honours and Masters I did a six week internship at Ocean Research in Mossel Bay, South Africa, studying great whites. I had never seen a shark in the water! My first was a white and it was an indescribable experience! We were on the water 12 hours a day chumming, getting 25 sharks around the boat and doing science on them. I fell in love with it. After my Masters I was invited back to manage the internship programme for six months. During this period I became very comfortable with sharks. We had 20 interns a month, from all over the world. Many had never been in the ocean and our role was to teach them marine biology and sharks specifically. That entailed taking them freediving with species of sharks all across South Africa. What stimulated me was that x-factor of sharks – fear – which I had as a surfer. I soon found through freediving that they just don’t care about you. They want to eat fish, which are mostly a lot smaller than you! My fear turned into fascination and I decided I wanted to become a shark scientist.

DM: What sort of sharks were these?

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