The Shark Guy

August 15, 2012








Bryan Franks
Bryan Franks, visiting assistant professor of biology, holds a baby lemon shark.
While millions of viewers will tune in this week to Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, the Rollins community need only wander into Bryan Franks’ office for a personal tutorial about the often-misunderstood killers of the sea. The visiting assistant professor of biology, a frequent guest on Shark Week over the last decade, has made the study of sharks his principal research focus. 

 

“It all started in 2002 when I moved to the Bimini Biological Field Station in the Bahamas,” Franks said. Affectionately referred to as The Shark Lab, the research center is a hub for shark researchers due to the ample population of shark species that live in the warm Caribbean waters around it. 

Franks spent three years at Bimini working primarily on research related to juvenile lemon sharks. In 2005, he took the position of managing director of the field station, and has continued his research since then. To date, the Shark Lab’s lemon shark project is the longest running research endeavor of its kind in the world. “This data has been invaluable in terms of answering questions about sharks, but there still is a tremendous amount we don’t know,” Franks said. 

Last year, Franks accepted a faculty position at Rollins and since then has been able to open his research to undergraduates inside the Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship Program. Kristian Ramkissoon '14 joined him this summer in Bimini to assist with the annual census of the native juvenile lemon shark population. 

Franks, who also conducts additional research projects in Jupiter and Cape Canaveral, Forida, is a self-proclaimed shark fanatic. “Like many shark biologists, I got into studying sharks because they are an animal I have a passion for,” Franks said. “I do believe shark populations are declining worldwide. I see my role as providing objective and accurate data that policy makers can use to make sound management decisions in order to maintain healthy oceans for future generations.” 

He’s also passionate about dispelling shark myths. “On my first day at the Bimini research station, I was taken on a shark snorkel and came face-to-face with local reef sharks,” Franks said. “There is a lot of fear built up about sharks, but I learned that day that when you get in the water with them, they usually just want to get away from you. They aren’t nearly as ferocious as people imagine them to be.” 

Not that Franks is suggesting we all jump into shark-infested waters for a swim.  “One of the things I tell people is that you should not be afraid of sharks, but you should respect them,” he said. “I have a huge respect for these animals and I find them to be fascinating.”

 

By Kristen Manieri

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