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USF Students Join Mote in Shark Search

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A few University of South Florida marine biology undergraduate students did more than just watch when joining their professor and the Mote Marine Laboratory on a shark expedition.

They were put to work.

Using long lines with dozens of hooks, the students found themselves pulling in all types of sharks. From blacktips to bull sharks, the crew caught nine sharks during an 11-hour excursion in the Gulf of Mexico.

The sharks ranged in size. Some could be picked up with one hand, while others were too large to bring on board. A bull shark tapped out at two meters and approximately 300 pounds – too big to take on board.

These are students of Philip Motta’s Biology of Sharks and Rays undergraduate course. The course is a joint effort between USF and Mote to give the students hands-on experience. In addition to USF’s crew, Bob Hueter, director of the Center for Shark Research at Mote, and Mote intern Monica Schmidt were also involved.

Motta says this joint effort by USF and Mote allows the students an opportunity that cannot be replaced by textbooks and instructional videos.

"When you have a six foot bull shark in the back of the boat and the students have to hold that shark down and draw blood at the same time with a struggling animal and record all the measurements, that is something invaluable," Motta said. "The students will never forget that."