Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Plague of Sharks" in the Gulf of Maine

Gimme your fish and no one gets hurt.  Photo by Andy Murch.

I found this story on Underwater Times and thought it was interesting given how deep into fisherman/shark relations any work with dogfish requires you to go.  Apparently a new shark has begun to assert itself as one of the dominant pest species in the Gulf of Maine.  This shark is the porbeagle (Lamna nasus) and the fact that it is now being put on the same level as the humble dogfish says a lot about the relationship between sharks and people and state of the Gulf of Maine fishery. 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My Research: the Cliff-Notes Version

So now that I've introduced myself, defended the honor of the spiny dogfish, and posted some nice pictures, it's time to toss some science-in-progress into the mix.  Eventually, I'm hoping to profile some of the projects being pursued by my lab-mates and friends, and I might as well take the lead with my own humble thesis.  This is what will likely be defining my life for the next two years (at a minimum), barring any disasters during the proposal defense.  Any brand new grad students reading should take heed; this is the level of work expected of you.

First off, some background.  I'm doing my grad work at East Carolina University under the direction of Dr. Rulifson (whose spiny dogfish work can be seen at - check the Contact section for a certain handsome devil).  I've been interested in sharks and shark research since I was but a wee lad, and as stated two posts down, I'm convinced that spiny dogfish are secretly some of the most interesting sharks out there.  So here it is for your reading pleasure; the quick and dirty version of my thesis proposal.  Keep in mind that this is written for a blog audience, so I've kept the technical aspects and scientific language to a minimum (I do have citations though).  Since any good thesis lives or dies on feedback, questions and comments are encouraged.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sharks on the Web: Elasmodiver

The better to eat you with...  Photo by Andy Murch

After the previous post's lengthy manifesto, tonight I'll just point you in the direction of a really awesome shark-related website.  I've been a fan of Andy Murch's work at Elasmodiver for years; his amazing photographs of sharks have been a fixture of my screen saver and powerpoints (all credited).  The dogfish photo lurking behind the title of this very blog is his work.  Andy's latest project is the Predators in Peril exhibition, a collection of conservation-themed shark photography.  Unfortunately this seems to be happening exclusively on the west coast for now, but hopefully it makes its way east at some point.  Until then, check out Andy's website for some of the best undersea photography on the internet, and for a very useful and accurate field guide to sharks and rays.  A few of my favorites below the jump...

In Defense of the Spiny Dogfish

"Voracious beyond belief, dogfish deserve their bad reputation among many fishermen."  - Bigelow and Schroeder's Fishes of the Gulf of Maine

As anyone with any kind of familiarity with Squalus acanthias will tell you, these are deeply unpopular animals.  Fishermen have cursed the name "dogfish" for almost as long as commercial fishing has existed, and recent efforts at dogfish management have not made them any more sympathetic.  Despite evidence of overfishing, these small sharks are still capable of turning up in massive numbers, swamping and damaging fishing gear, and devouring the catch.  They lack the nobility of many of their shark cousins; you're not likely to see them making majestic leaps like great whites and makos, and they haven't earned the respect of sport fishermen like porbeagles or thresher sharks.  For these reasons conservation of the spiny dogfish has been contentious at best. 

So why would anyone in their right mind want to study these fish except to try and find ways of eradicating them?  I make no secret that I fall on the side of conservation when it comes to this issue (though I want to see management of these sharks done right, but that's for another post).  Hopefully this post will illustrate some of the reasons I think spiny dogfish deserve at least a little respect.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


And "Ya Like Dags?" is born.

I'm Chuck, a grad student in North Carolina working on a study of spiny dogfish feeding habits and community interactions. I figured that since I'm doing some work that some might find interesting, and because I've spent a good chunk of my online time reading blogs about marine science (Deep Sea News and Southern Fried Science have been inspirations), I'd throw my hat into the blogging ring. I'm hoping to use this blog as a source of outreach for my research and hope to get some of my fellow researchers to chime in about theirs (some of which is much more interesting than mine). I'll also be writing about marine science news and other interesting research that I happen across, and since this is the internet, there will probably be a fair amount of YouTube videos and other goofiness as well. There will be an overarching theme of dogfish, sharks, fisheries, and marine science.

As to origins of this blog's ridiculous title, it comes partially from a line in the excellent Guy Ritchie movie Snatch, and partially from a fishing trip. My friends and I were out fishing off of Rhode Island and ran into a big school of spiny dogfish. Thinking it was witty, I asked my fishing buddies if they "liked dags" as I pulled one up. Somehow, it caught on to the point where we no longer call these little sharks dogfish, we just call them "dags." Since I'm now researching these animals, i guess my answer to this blog's title is "yes, I like dags."