Adopting A Bull Shark -- A Graduate Intern’s Perspective

Posted on September 17, 2013
Written by: Natalie Torkelson
Tags: Adopt A Bull Shark, Sharks, Conservation, donate 

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When I first signed-up to help design and run the Adopt-A-Bull-Shark Initiative,
I wasn’t really sure what to expect. As part of the graduation requirements for The
University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science’s Masters
of Professional Science degree
, students have to complete an internship. As a marine
conservation student, I chose to work with the non-profit Shark Savers’ SharksCount
Program
in Miami. Trained as a marine biologist, I haven’t had much fundraising or marketing experience, let alone a business class. Next thing I knew, I was creating budget spreadsheets and brainstorming ways to promote the campaign through social media. Not only is Adopt A Bull Shark a great learning experience for me, it’s also a great way to involve people in shark conservation in a fun and exciting way.

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     The adoptable bull sharks are from The Shark Reef Marine Reserve in Fiji. These
sharks are pretty special to adopt because this adoption is more than a “symbolic” animal
adoption sometimes offered through a zoo or aquarium. These sharks are actually known
individuals
that are named and recognized by scientists and divers that interact with them
frequently in the Reserve. Over 100 sharks have been named and catalogued in the
Reserve, and these sharks are identified by natural tags -- differences in pigmentation, or
physical characteristics such as scars or injuries. When someone adopts a bull shark
though this initiative, they receive a picture and detailed information about a specific,
known, and studied animal, and instead of stuffed animal toy.


     Another unique thing about this initiative is that the adoptable bull sharks in Fiji
might actually be their own subspecies. A recent study by Testerman and colleagues
(Testerman et. al, 2012)
compared the genetic structure of bull sharks from several
different locations, and found that the bull sharks in Fiji demonstrated statistically
significant different genetic structuring from the other locations that were sampled. The
bull sharks in Fiji tend to be larger than other bull sharks, and this makes them very more
exciting to dive with and adopt.


     Along with the adoptions, we incorporated other cool perks into the campaign.
Some of these include: a sustainable shark tooth necklace by Calypso Sea that uses shark
teeth from The Shark Reef Marine Reserve, and an opportunity to name and dive with
the bull sharks in Fiji along with the Beqa Adventure Divers’ team. To me, the best perk
is the simplest: the “Bull Shark Adoption Package”. With this adoption, donators learn
about the bull sharks in the Reserve, and also learn about the Reserve itself. The most
important thing is that this adoption is helping to conserve sharks, while at the same time
instilling a feeling of appreciation and stewardship toward the sharks within the adopters.
Helping to design and run Adopt A Bull Shark has been a fun and rewarding
experience for me. It has given me a new set of skills outside of the science field that I’m
sure I will use in the future. It’s gratifying to see the donations being made, and to know
that all the work we put into creating this campaign has actually inspired people to want
to help conserve sharks. It’s also awesome that the adopters are not just donating money;
that they are actually learning something while making a difference (and getting some
pretty cool stuff).  If you haven’t already, go check out our page on Indiegogo where
you’ll learn about Fiji’s amazing bull sharks, and can adopt one for yourself or a friend!

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