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National Geographic Dives into "Sharkfest" with TAMUG Ph. D. Student    

July 16, 2021


Marine Biology Ph. D. student Dr. Lauren Eve Simonitis poses with a juvenile scalloped hammerhead shark, one of the sub-species she recently discussed on a special "Sharkfest" episode of the Overheard at National Geographic podcast.

By Andréa Bolt, Communications Specialist, Division of Marketing & Communications

How JAWSome is this?! Texas A&M University at Galveston Department of Marine Biology doctoral student Dr. Lauren Eve Simonitis recently sat down with the folks from the Overheard at National Geographic podcast for a special season six episode titled “The Surprising Superpowers of Sharks” during Nat Geo’s "Sharkfest" celebration. 

What specifically did you discuss about sharks?

I talked a bit about why sharks are eating odd objects and how they deal with that. I also discussed my work at the Aquarium at Moody Gardens, where I do my behavioral work with bonnethead sharks and how they respond to food cues, how they can smell fish blood and choose not to attack. Finally, I talked about their “extra” senses: electroreception and magnetoreception.  

A bonnethead shark
A bonnethead shark

Why are sharks important to you and why do you think Shark Week & Shark Fest viewers should care?

Shark research is usually highlighted for the more visually sensational science—breaching great white sharks, tagging hammerheads, tracking tiger sharks, etc. I was happy to give an introduction to some equally interesting shark science that doesn’t get the flashy shows. Sharks are incredible, multimodal animals that integrate all seven of their senses to give them a complete picture of what’s happening around them in their environment. I love sensory biology and I love being able to share my work with the public. 

I also love highlighting a lesser-known, less spotlighted shark like the bonnethead. They’re a smaller member of the hammerhead family with a unique head shape and are abundant in Galveston waters.  

I think it’s important to show that sharks are not mindless eating machines that immediately attack at the smell of fish blood. They are able to utilize sensory cues (such as the smell of prey) and make decisions based on those cues. Sometimes if you’re walking by a restaurant and it smells good, you’ll go in and eat. Other times if you’re not hungry or the wait is too long or it doesn’t look appetizing, you’ll walk by the restaurant. Sharks are the same way. 

Sharks are neat even if they’re not underscored with dramatic music or launching themselves out of the air at seals. 

When & where can we tune in?

Any time! 

National Geographic link: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/podcasts/article/bonus-episode-the-surprising-superpowers-of-sharks 

Spotify link: https://open.spotify.com/episode/3akuSlqHk7HSHhVcDIXVn1?si=vEDlp1HZTzmxFsH3MA3J0w&dl_branch=1  

Interns Anahy Garza, an undergraduate student, and Former Student Sharleen Muñoz aid Simonitis in marine biology research in the university’s Ecomorphology and Comparative Physiology Lab. 
Interns Anahy Garza, an undergraduate student, and Former Student Sharleen Muñoz aid Simonitis in marine biology research in the university’s Ecomorphology and Comparative Physiology Lab. 

 

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Media contact:
Andréa Bolt
Communications Specialist
a_bolt@tamug.edu



Texas A&M University at Galveston is an ocean-oriented branch campus of Texas A&M University which educates nearly 2,300 undergraduate and graduate students in a unique blend of marine and maritime programs, including majors in science, business, engineering, liberal arts, and transportation. It is driving the development of the blue economy in the Gulf Coast Region and is a critical contributor to Texas A&M’s sea-grant portion of Texas A&M’s rare land-, sea-, space-grant mission with nearly $10 million in research expenditures.
 
Texas A&M-Galveston is also home to the Texas A&M Maritime Academy, one of seven in the U.S. and the only academy integrated into a Tier 1 academic institution, which trains over 400 cadets annually for maritime service and employment around the world. Texas A&M-Galveston is ideally located in Galveston, Texas on the Gulf Coast where is it surrounded by the industry, environment and programs essential to fulfilling its special-purpose mission. Aggies are known for their deep commitment to the success of each other and their strong desire to serve.

If you are interested in supporting this endeavor or research, please contact the Texas A&M University at Galveston Office of Development by email at GiveToSeaAggies@txamfoundation.com or by calling (409) 740-4481.