Day 92: 9/25/13: Afternoon with a Shark Legend

I am still ecstatic from Ralph Collier’s lecture this afternoon at Glendale College this afternoon. Great turn out–students, teachers from all disciplines, and people from outside school–including one dazzled shark nerd in a Jaws t-shirt who sat in the front row, and my dear friend Lisa and her fellow shark fanatic pal, Jack.

Ralph covered some fascinating stuff about shark behavior including “spy hopping” in which white sharks (and apparently oceanic white tips) stick their heads out of the water to check out what’s happening on land and sometimes startle random seals off the edges of rookeries. They also spy hop to calculate which group of seals in the haul-out area might be easiest to sweep into the water via a giant breach. Essentially, I learned that white sharks ain’t dummies. Not by a long shot. They have memories. They make calculated decisions. Ralph doesn’t believe in calling shark encounters “accidents”–he gives the animals volition—whether the intent is to investigate or to launch a predatory strike.

I learned two more disturbing consequences of shark finning:

1. When the discarded bodies of finned sharks are thrown overboard, they sink to the bottom where ammonia leaking from their ravaged bodies destroys coral communities.

2. Increasing numbers of people in Asia who consume shark fin soup are developing neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and A.L.S. ¬†Researchers have proposed that the high concentrations of mercury in shark fin and flesh bind with other neurotoxins and create a lethal toxic compound. Could this new health concern become a powerful force in stopping finning?

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Day 91 9/24/13: Ralph Collier’s Awesome Resume

Writing the introduction to Ralph Collier’s lecture tomorrow. This man knows everything about white sharks from their interactions with people to their inspections of inanimate objects and sea birds. He was the first to notice how white sharks roll their eyes during predatory or investigative attacks. The Egyptian Government asked for his help after a series of attacks in the Red Sea in 2010. He’s appeared in 50 documentaries, his work cited in over 300 publications. He’s written stuff on white shark dietary habits, and how they see colors and respond to sound.

It is a fascinating thing—the devotion of one’s entire life to understand the behavior of such an alien creature…. I wonder how one might compare this obsession with sharks to the obsessive drive of the artist? ¬† It’s a question that I’m frankly too tired to contemplate, so here’s a meme:

Codependent No More