Shark Week at Real Scientists – Thanks and farewell David Shiffman

In yet another epic week , David Shiffman brought Shark Week to Real Scientists, sparking massive discussions on everything from peer review  to sustainable fishing, shark conservation and advocacy.  Sharks a subject dear to the hearts of all Australians, our summers are punctuated by stories of shark attacks and sightings from Harbor to isolated northern beaches. Feared, venerated, and hunted for for food, sharks are some of the most ancient and astonishing of all sea creatures.

David Shiffman and Colleagues

David Shiffman and Colleagues

Starting off on Sunday morning Aussie EST, David introduced himself and his work as a student and conservationist (Storify Part 1).   So, why sharks, asked US midwesterner @jackhostager, why should I care about them?

Why Sharks? BECAUSE

Why Sharks? BECAUSE

Throughout the week David highlighted the relevance and connectedness of environment, social sciences and hard science with his work (Part 2 of Storify here), the importance of predators in all kinds of ecosystems, and how they track and study sharks. David showed us how disciplines and methods that seemed purely scientific were, in fact,  related to our food supplies and commerce.  David also managed to engage non-scientists with a terrific discussion on open access publishing, peer review and science communication (Storify Part 3, 4). This was particularly relevant in a week when famous journal Science published what appears to be a sting article on Open Access publishing, one of the hottest current issues in science at the moment. Hosting a question and answer session on Everything You Wanted to Know About Sharks but Were Afraid To Ask, David not only shared his science stories, but shared the audience’s own experiences and stories with us all. It was a unique two-way interaction and engagement, the kind of thing we love about Real Scientists.  And hopefully, we finally put Megalodon to rest!  So thank you so much, David, for such a spectacular week. Perhaps we need a Shark Week every year at Real Scientists. Whaddaya reckon?

We were delighted to have David host for us this week and you can continue following his amazing adventures at @WhySharksMatter or follow his writings at Southern Fried Science. The storifys are also available here.

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Blog: David Shiffman joins Real Scientists

Last week we were mesmerised by the glowing (literally) and incredibly important work on infectious diseases carried out by artist, scientist and communicator Dr Siouxsie Wiles in her New Zealand lab.  This week, we travel to the other side of the world to Miami, Florida, to join the epic David Shiffman of @WhySharksMatter who joins @realscientists as curator.

David with a lemon shark

David Shiffman (@whysharksmatter) is a PhD student at the University of Miami’s  Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy, where he studies the ecology and conservation of sharks.   He’s been named as one of Huffington Posts’s top biologists to follow on Twitter  – so kind of a big deal. Apart form his work as a student and research assistant, he blogs for Southern Fried Science (  takes classes and community groups out into the field to participate in shark research with his lab, the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program,( . We asked David our usual set of questions or seven:

1. How did you end up in science?
Although I grew up in inland Pittsburgh, I’ve always been fascinated by the oceans. I read every book I could find and watched every documentary, and spent tons of time at the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium. Through all this, I learned that the oceans are in trouble, and that science-based management is an effective way to help. A career choice was a no-brainer. I decided I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was 6 or 7 years old and chose to focus on conservation issues before high school. 
2. Why sharks? (obviously)
Most boys (and a lot of girls) go through either a shark thing or a dinosaur thing. I did both, and chose sharks. Sharks are some of the most misunderstood creatures on Earth, and they need knowledgeable and passionate advocates. I try my best to help. 
3. Where did you grow up? Where did you school?
I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (go Steelers!) I got my bachelors degree in Biology with a concentration in marine science at Duke University (go Blue Devils!). I got my Masters in Marine Biology at the College of Charleston (go Cougars!) I’m currently working on my Ph.D. 
4. Have you been to Australia? (Because sharks)
Sure have! 3 times, actually. My high school graduation present was a family trip to Australia. We toured around for 2 weeks. Sydney was my favorite city. I also studied abroad for a semester at James Cook University in Townsville, and attended a conference in Cairns. 
5. Tell us a bit about shark conservation.
Most people think of sharks primarily as a threat to people, but cows, dogs, vending machines, and toasters kill more people each year than sharks do. Sharks are in big trouble, though, do to overfishing. 1 out of every 6 known species of sharks and shark relatives are Threatened with Extinction according to the IUCN Red List. 
6. Tell us a bit about your sci comms work
With my blog, Facebook, and twitter, I try to educate the public about marine conservation issues related to sharks. Recently, I used my twitter account to correct inaccuracies during the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” in real time, leading to an interview on CNN.
Our lab, the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program at the University of Miami, is heavily involved in both online and real-world outreach. Last year, we took over 1,000 high school students out into the field with us to help catch sharks and learn about the ocean. People can also track our satellite-tagged sharks on our website ( using Google Earth. We use our Facebook page ( to share marine science and conservation news daily.
7. Do you have any other interests and hobbies?
I enjoy SCUBA diving and snorkeling, watching college basketball, and playing with my puppy. 
Don’t worry, Twitter, we’re on the case. We have already demanded puppy photos.  Get ready for @WhySharksMatter. We’re gonna need a bigger everything.