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UNO researcher investigates bull sharks' movements in Lake Pontchartrain

Photo provided by staff.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - 6:30pm

There is something lurking under the water at sunset point pier in Mandeville.

"I'd say the biggest myth about sharks in Lake Pontchartrain is they are not here. People like to say 'Oh you're just pulling my leg.' 'There's no sharks in Lake Pontchartrain," Jonathan Davis, Ph.D. student at UNO and researcher with UNO'S Nekton Research Laboratory, explained. "Here in Lake Pontchartrain it's pretty obvious there are bull sharks. There's no monster around here. "

Davis' study focuses on tracking sharks movement and time in the lake. His research even landed him a spot in The Discovery Channel's 'Voodoo Sharks,' which aired during 'Shark Week.'

"I was pretty interested, because you know it's everybody's dream to be on 'Shark Week' especially mine since I was a little kid," Davis exclaimed.

Davis allowed a film crew to follow him and his wife Lucy as they tried to catch sharks in Lake Pontchartrain. He said he wanted the main focus to be on his research, but he said that was not always the case.

"If you're a big production company you want ratings to be high. They wanted us to catch 10 foot monster sharks and them to be agressive on the boat and somebody to get bit," Davis said.

Now Davis is gearing up to go out and study more sharks. The couple goes out on the waters of Lake Pontchartrain. Once catch a shark Davis implants a transmitter into the shark.

"Actually pulling a shark up and doing surgery knowing that you need to get it back in the water quickly is kind of nerve wrecking," Davis described.

"Watching shark week. Watching how close that shark got to Jonathan's arm. That's pretty terrifying to know he could have easily been bitten," Lucy Davis stated.

When it's all over the shark goes back into the water, and Davis uses a series of receivers set up on the bottom of the lake to track where the sharks go. Davis hopes his research will help people understand sharks play a big role in protecting the lake's ecosystem.

"They are predators without the bull sharks in Lake Pontchartrain the whole ecosystem could collapse, so it's very important to figure out their movement and exactly what they're doing," Davis explained.

Davis said he's tagged 10 sharks since April. So far, he has never been bitten.

"I wouldn't imagine you have anything to worry about if you were a swimmer, because there has never been a recorded attack in Lake Pontchartrain by a bull shark," Davis advised.
 

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