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Global FinPrint

Mike is the co-lead Principal Investigator of the Global FinPrint project. A Paul G. Allen initiative, it unites collaborators around the world to fill a critical information gap about the diminishing numbers of shark and rays on coral reefs. The multi-institutional team conducts surveys of marine life on coral reefs using baited remote underwater video (BRUV). The research will improve our understanding of how these species influence the ecosystems and how humans impact these species and their habitats. Ultimately, the consolidation of this research into a single analysis will aid management and conservation efforts for sharks and rays as well as coral reefs worldwide.

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LTER Predators

The Florida Coastal Everglades (FCE) is part of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Project established in 1980. Researchers in the FCE study how hydrology, climate, and human activities affect ecosystem and population dynamics in the ecotone and coastal Everglades. The Heithaus Lab has investigated the role of top predators in Everglades National Park for over a decade. 

We’ve studied juvenile coastal Everglades bull sharks for over a decade. Using acoustic tracking, population size monitoring, and stable isotopes, we’re studying the movements, behavior, and trophic roles of juvenile bull sharks and how these roles may change with restoration.

Alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) are an abundant, large-bodied predator in the Everglades freshwater and estuarine habitats. We’ve conducted research on alligators in this area for almost a decade. Our research has focused on the transition zones between saltwater and freshwater areas in the Shark River basin. The lab is also conducting surveys and experiments to look at the ecosystem-level effects of alligators through their role as ecosystem engineers primarily in phosphorus-poor Everglades freshwater marshes. 

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LTER Predators

The Florida Coastal Everglades (FCE) is part of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Project established in 1980. Researchers in the FCE study how hydrology, climate, and human activities affect ecosystem and population dynamics in the ecotone and coastal Everglades. The Heithaus Lab has investigated the role of top predators in Everglades National Park for over a decade. 

We’ve studied juvenile coastal Everglades bull sharks for over a decade. Using acoustic tracking, population size monitoring, and stable isotopes, we’re studying the movements, behavior, and

trophic of juvenile bull sharks and how these roles may change with restoration.


Alligators
(Alligator mississippiensis) are an abundant, large-bodied predator in the Everglades freshwater and estuarine habitats. We’ve conducted research on alligators in this area for almost a decade. Our research has focused on the transition zones between saltwater and freshwater areas in the Shark River basin. The lab is also conducting surveys and experiments to look at the ecosystem-level effects of alligators through their role as ecosystem engineers primarily in phosphorus-poor Everglades freshwater marshes. 

Madagascar Whale Sharks 

In collaboration with Mada Megafauna, the Marine Megafauna Foundation, the National Center for Oceanographic Research in Madagascar and Les Baleines Rand’eau, Dr. Jeremy Kiszka is studying the population status and residency of whale sharks off Nosy Be, Madagascar. Photographic identification of individuals coupled with satellite tagging will help researchers determine where these sharks are moving and whether or not there is a decline in sightings. The Madagascar Whale Sharks team plans to communicate these results with the local government to establish management regimes.

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Shark Bay Ecosystem Research Project

The Shark Bay Ecosystem Research Project (SBERP) is an international research collaboration led by the Heithaus Lab with the goal of understanding the dynamics of one of the world’s most pristine seagrass ecosystems. In addition, SBERP strives to disseminate the results of the project to a wide audience through documentary films, the project website, curriculum and teacher resources for secondary schools. The lab’s work in Shark Bay provides the most detailed study of the ecological role of sharks in the world and has been used to affect positive policy changes in shark conservation.

Currently, the Loggerhead turtle populations are being studied by the SBERP through the use of satellite tags in order to obtain more information on loggerhead migrations, movements and habitat use.

West African Slender-snouted Crocodiles

West African slender-snouted crocodiles (Mecistops cataphractus) is restricted to West Africa where we estimate only 500 adults may be left in the wild, making it one of the most endangered vertebrates in the world.  Following from Dr. Shirley’s research revising the systematics of the genus Mecistops, his research with this species is seeking to better inform our conservation efforts.  We are researching slender-snouted crocodile movement, territorial and habitat selection ecology to better inform reintroduction efforts.  We are assessing the efficacy of existing protected areas networks to protect critical, remaining populations of this species, while concurrently working to estimate species abundance.  And, we are modeling the factors underlying its current and future distribution.  Our work relies on conservation technologies ranging from telemetry to environmental (e)DNA.

 

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Biscayne Bay Bottlenose Dolphin 

Biscayne Bay is a shallow body of water surrounded by the city of Miami and Miami Beach in the north and encompasses Biscayne National Park in the south. It is a hotspot for a wide range of human activities, both recreational and commercial, causing the Bay to become highly congested with boat traffic and noise. Biscayne Bay also serves as important habitat for a number of commercially important and protected species, including bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Over the past two decades, Biscayne Bay has undergone many changes, including the dredging of Port Miami, large-scale seagrass die-offs, re-routing of storm pumps, increased development, and extreme climatic events. Little is known about how these changes have impacted the resident bottlenose dolphins.

In collaboration with the NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center, this project will investigate the impacts of these disturbances and environmental changes on the habitat use and distribution of bottlenose dolphins within the Bay. Specifically, we study how environmental changes affect the spatial distribution, habitat use and behavior of bottlenose dolphins and their prey. More specifically, we model the distribution of these animals in relation to environmental parameters and prey distribution, their feeding ecology and their social structure. Ultimately, we aim at understanding how environmental changes affect the ecological importance and group dynamics of species as a model system. This project will be important to understand the resilience of resident dolphin populations inhabiting urban estuaries during periods of habitat degradation and environmental change.