LC-M grad featured on Discovery Channel’s Shark Week
After being bitten by a baby black tip shark while on vacation in Florida, Jonathan Davis was more than just bitten, he discovered what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
This week he will part of the Discovery Channel Series Shark Week where his work with Bull Sharks will be featured. His studies are primarily the elasmobranch, which are the sharks, skates and rays.
The 2004 Little Cypress-Mauriceville graduate was always fascinated with the ocean and after high school received a degree in Marine Biology in 2007 from the University of Texas. He also was an environmental education intern at Shangri La in 2008-2009 where he worked at Noel Jordan. From there he received a Master’s Degree while studying in Auckland, Australia.
Finally, he went to the University of New Orleans to work on his PhD where he is now at the Nekton Research Lab. The first chapter in his PhD studies has included his tagging of nine bull sharks. There were also 90 receivers placed around Lake Ponchatrain which will send a signal each time one of the sharks passes through the area.
His studies have also included the taking of blood and pieces of their fins for additional research.
“Bull sharks are one of the few species that can move freely from saltwater to fresh,” Davis said.
A Shark Week producer heard about his work with Bull Sharks and approached Davis about being on the program.
However, on the show which features Davis, there won’t be any dramatic scenes involving him battling a shark. Instead, he will show the true science behind his work and what drives him to continue. Davis added, he has never been attacked in the waters of Lake Ponchatrain.
“They have been here much longer than we have and the best way to understand them and in turn protect them is to learn more about them,” Davis said. “This is the premise of what I’m trying to do.”
The bull shark, Carcharhinus leucas, is a shark commonly found worldwide in warm, shallow waters along coasts and in rivers. The bull shark is known for its aggressive nature, predilection for warm shallow water, and presence in brackish and freshwater systems including estuaries and rivers.
Since the bull shark who can thrive in both types of water, it has the ability to travel far up rivers. They have even been known to travel as far up as Kentucky in the Ohio River, although there have been few recorded freshwater attacks. They are probably responsible for the majority of near-shore shark attacks, including many attacks attributed to other species.
“They are beautiful swimmers,” Davis said.
But, Bull Sharks easily dominate the waters.
Bull sharks are large and stout, with females being larger than males. The baby bull sharks, neonates, can be up to 2.66 ft in length at birth. Adult female bull sharks average 7.9 feet long and typically weigh about 290 pounds, whereas the slightly smaller adult male averages 7.4 ft and weighs about 210 pounds. There has also been reports of a female shark being recorded as 13 feet in length and weighing 690 pounds, according to the National Geographic.
A bull shark’s diet consists mainly of bony fish and sharks, including other bull sharks, but can also include turtles, birds, dolphins, terrestrial mammals, crustaceans, echinoderms, and stingrays. They hunt in murky waters because it is harder for the prey to see the shark coming. Bull sharks have been known to use the bump-and-bite technique to attack their prey.
Since bull sharks often dwell in very shallow waters, they may be more dangerous to humans than any other species of shark, and along with the tiger shark, oceanic whitetip and great white shark, are among the four shark species most likely to attack humans, according to National Geographic.
The Discovery Channel Series will investigate Bull Shark populations which have moved beyond oceans and U.S. coasts to the bayous of Louisiana. Nicknamed ‘Voodoo Sharks’ by local shrimp fishermen, these Bull Sharks have extraordinary ability and show up by the hundreds in the bayous of Louisiana. There are many a fishermen who have encountered these dominant and startling predators in the shallow Louisiana waters. But, while Bull Sharks in the Bayou are a known phenomenon, locals tell of an even larger shark lurking in swamps, which leaves them pondering if what they encounter is the phantom shark ,the stuff of Cajun legend, or wonder if the waters hold a brand new species.
When Davis is not at work, he spends his time at the beach relaxing. Although, his idea of relaxation may be different, especially if he spots a shark fin on the horizon.
Shark Week on the Discovery Channel began Sunday and will continue through Saturday.
Jonathan Davis, an LC-M graduate, will be part of Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. His work with Bull Sharks has caught the producers attention. During his studies at the University of New Orleans, he has done some outreach with some locals on the pier and shows them a baby bull shark.