A shark expert at Arizona State University teaches people how to save his favorite animals

A shark expert at Arizona State University teaches people how to save his favorite animals

Children who grew up in the concrete woods of Pittsburgh, approximately 400 miles from the ocean. But for David Schiffman, the distance made the ocean even more magical.

“There’s something about the ocean in your imagination that, when you don’t get to see it all the time, it makes it all the more wonderful,” said Schiffman.

Schiffman, a marine biologist who teaches an online course in marine biology at Arizona State University, is a passionate shark researcher and marine conservation advocate. Shiffman wants to help his favorite animals at some point 37% of the world’s sharks and rays Endangered – mainly due to poaching and the destruction of their habitats due to climate change, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

As part of his career in educating the public about sharks, Schiffman has taught students marine biology, fought misinformation on social media and published a book about his favorite animals.

Schiffman said it’s important for everyone to know how healthy shark populations benefit people everywhere.

“The ocean is important to all of us, even if we live far from the ocean, because it is important in regulating the global climate, it is important to global commerce, and it provides food for billions of people and jobs for people,” Schiffman said. “Keeping the ocean healthy means keeping the food chain healthy, and keeping the food chain healthy means keeping the top of the food chain healthy.”

Schiffman had been fascinated by marine biology and sharks since he was a child, and he took this passion with him throughout his academic career.

After receiving his Ph.D. in Ecosystem Science and Policy in 2016 from the University of Miami where he conducted a thesis on shark conservation, Schiffman studied public attitudes toward shark conservation at Simon Fraser University in Canada as a Liber Ero Research Fellow.

Schiffman’s research on shark conservation has piqued the interest of his peers, including Lara Ferry, senior associate dean of the Knowledge Foundation at the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, who met Schiffman when he was editor at the Elasmobranch Society of America. The American Elasmobranch Association It is an organization that studies sharks and rays.

Skilled in taking what he learned from his research and connecting it with lawmakers to enact policies that protect marine life, Ferry said Schiffman landed a position at Arizona State University where he began teaching an online marine biology course to students of any discipline.

“[Students]say things that you rarely see in teaching assessments,” Ferry said. They say things like ‘I changed the way I look at the world. ”

Besides sparking his interest at Arizona State University, Schiffman has also made the rounds on Twitter, regularly tweeting about marine life studies, as well as annually debunking shark myths that are published on Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” a shark documentary that continues for a week. marathon. Schiffman says that the bark around a shark is worse than its bite.

“I’m trying to break some myths and some misconceptions and say we’re actually better off with healthy shark populations than we are without them,” Schiffman said.

Shiffman got Twitter account In 2009, a time when some of his peers thought it unprofessional for researchers to be on social media. Schiffman realized that social media can be an effective tool for scientists to communicate with the public and combat the spread of misinformation.

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“I think the past few years have shown us that it is important, that true and correct information from experts is shared rather than just pseudo-scientific conspiracy theory bullshit,” Schiffman said. “And part of that means that more people who know what they’re talking about need to be in the trenches on the front lines.”

To help promote a more positive message about sharks, Schiffman published a book in May that introduces readers to the world of sharks, how they benefit our ecosystem and how we can protect them.

In “Why Sharks Matter: Deep Dive with the World’s Most Misunderstood Predator,” Schiffman explores shark conservation areas less well known by the public, such as sustainable shark fisheries—geographic areas where fish, including sharks, are harvested. .

While it’s understandable why people want to stop fishing, a sustainable shark fishery can meet the economic needs of communities that depend on sharks as a food source, said Catherine MacDonald, a marine biologist who has studied shark conservation policies with Shiffman. while keeping it. The shark population is in good health.

“Globally, many shark fisheries are important to food security for communities vulnerable to food scarcity,” MacDonald said.

In documentaries and on social media, Schiffman has said that certain protection policies get more attention than others, usually at the expense of our oceans.

“You will get the impression from following certain non-expert influencer accounts on social media, from watching ‘Shark Week’ or from movies like ‘Seaspiracy’ that the only threat to sharks is shark fin soup…when you focus only on the sharks,” he said. Schiffman: Small part of the problem, you’re ignoring a lot of problems.

Although setting aside some policies that would help shark populations and oceans, Schiffman said there are places where progress is being made, such as Provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act.

“There are a lot of great things for climate and the environment in that bill, including some ocean and coastal conservation money that just haven’t gotten much publicity yet,” Schiffman said. “That we can achieve this while the country faces so many other challenges in such a narrowly divided Senate gives me a lot of hope.”

Edited by Logan Stanley, Grace Coubertheater, and Pepper Hansen.


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Caden RybackBusiness and Technology Reporter

Kaden is a reporter for the Bureau of Biztech, focusing on student-run businesses, people profiles and research papers. During his time at The State Press, Kaden’s biggest piece was about ASU’s history with NASA. He is a second year student majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication.


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