Researchers Use Their Time In The ‘Shark Week’ Spotlight To Promote A Conservation Message

Artificial reefs built by scientists from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi provide support for ocean life, including sharks.

By Alexandra HartJuly 26, 2017 1:42 pm

Texas A&M–Corpus Christi is going from the Gulf Stream to the TV screen.

The coastal university will be featured on the  “Shark Week” television series Wednesday, displaying artificial reefs for the Gulf Coast that are designed to attract wildlife in areas where the ocean floor is largely made up of mud or sand.

Greg Stunz, a professor of marine biology at Texas A&M–Corpus Christi and the director of the Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation, says sharks are known for using these drifting structures called “fish aggregating devices.”

Stunz says “Shark Week” isn’t just about entertainment for the school’s researchers. Discovery provides resources to the department that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to, including the funds to create the floating reef.

Stunz says that the university works to promote a conservation message through its programming, and works to avoid some of the more pseudoscience-based components Shark Week has drawn criticism for in the past.

“[We] make sure there are no mermaids or megalodons swimming nearby,” he says.

Discovery has also moved its programming in a more conservation-heavy direction, Stunz says, and now sharks can be representatives for the marine community as a whole.

“We can work through sharks being such charismatic animals,” Stunz says. “We can use them as ambassadors for the ocean to teach not only about sharks, but also why we care about healthy oceans and how that promotes healthy human populations.”


Written by Lila Weatherly.