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Award Winner Q & A - Emily Meese

Q. What award did you receive and when?

I was awarded the Donald R. Nelson Behavior Research Award at the 2017 AES meeting in Austin, TX. 

Q. What degree are you seeking, from what institution, under whose guidance?

I am a Masters student in Biology at California State University Long Beach in Dr. Chris Lowe’s Shark Lab. 

Q. What is the most important (actual or potential) finding of your research?  Give us a little background on the subject.

I am studying the fine-scale movements and activity patterns of the CA horn shark (Heterodontus francisci) to better understand how they use habitat to optimize energy gain. I tag individuals with custom tag packages that have an acoustic transmitter and an accelerometer data logger, then actively track each shark for up to 48 hours.  So far, my tracks have proven that horn sharks travel much longer distances than we anticipated for a small, bottom-dwelling shark.  In addition, the data loggers have revealed these sharks move back and forth between relatively colder, deeper waters and warmer, shallower waters.  They may be behaviorally thermoregulating as a way to offset the costs of traveling long distances, to be able to maximize energy gain.  The ultimate goal of my Master’s thesis is to be able to quantify horn shark energetic landscapes to predict how changing ocean temperatures may affect the distribution and behavior of this kelp forest associated species. 

Q. How is the award going to help you complete the project?

The Nelson Award is going to help me complete field work for my Master’s thesis by helping fund costs for acoustic transmitters, accelerometer data loggers, and scuba diving fees. 

Q. What are your other research goals?

I am fascinated in understanding how environmental conditions influence physiology, and how that interaction affects the behavior and ecology of sharks.  I want to continue to use a variety of tagging technology and biologging techniques to research the movements, habitat use, and behaviors of elasmobranchs to better understand their ecosystem roles, as well as contribute to the management and conservation of these important animals.  My Master’s thesis aims to answer these questions for horn sharks, and I am looking forward to continue to research these topics in the future.        

Q. How did you get started in research/shark bio/science?

I started scuba diving at a young age and quickly realized I wanted to be a marine biologist.  I first learned about shark physiology as a high school student and was instantly hooked.  I received my B.S. in Marine Biology at Cal State Long Beach where I had the privilege of doing research in Dr. Chris Lowe’s lab as an undergraduate student.  Now as a Masters student in Dr. Lowe’s lab, I am enjoying challenging myself to increase my skill set and continue to learn more about shark physiology and behavior to progress in the field of elasmobranch research.