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Baby Sharks in a Changing World

The Physioshark Research Program at James Cook University is dedicated to understanding how climate change is impacting sharks and informing conservation efforts. The team investigates the effects of rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification, and declining oxygen on the physiology and behaviour of sharks.

Sharks are an important element of healthy environments and without them entire ocean ecosystems can fall out of balance. Based on the Great Barrier Reef and in French Polynesia the Physioshark Research Program seeks to understand and protect sharks in a changing world.

By working to safeguard these important predators, the team is contributing to the health and sustainability of marine ecosystems, which are essential to the well-being of our planet.

Led by Professor Jodie Rummer, the Physioshark Research Program is dedicated to understanding the impacts of climate change on the physiology and behaviour of sharks.

The team uses a variety of techniques, including tracking devices, environmental sensors, and laboratory-based experiments, to study the responses of sharks to changing environmental conditions.

By investigating the impacts of climate change on newborn sharks, reproducing females, and small shark species living in already challenging habitats (e.g., the epaulette or ‘walking’ shark), the team aims to develop new strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change on these predators.

Results to date have identified 10 nursery areas around the island of Mo’orea in French Polynesia where blacktip reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus) are born in October and November, while sicklefin lemon sharks (Negaprion acutidens) are born in September and October.

The team has begun to track pregnant females to understand where and when they give birth and how such conditions may affect the health of their offspring, as newborn sharks represent future adult populations and therefore the health and integrity of marine ecosystems.

Your donation will help JCU's Physioshark Research Team save critical shark populations by:

  • Monitoring wild populations and collecting data on population trends, natural history, and threats.
  • Developing models to predict responses to climate change and the potential for adaptation.
  • Devising conservation actions to minimise the impacts of climate change. This includes identifying and conserving natural refuges from climate change and additional human impacts, such as development, runoff, and other forms of pollution.
  • Focusing on public outreach, education, and engagement of communities to protect these vital marine species.

Shark research

Image courtesy of Tom Vierus.

James Cook University is an Australian registered Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR), which means donations of $2 or more are tax-deductible.