Hi there! My name is Jess Schulte and I am part of the newest batch of 2021 Oregon Sea Grant Scholars. I am working to gather data on the movement and foraging ecology of shark predators – specifically the broadnose sevengill (Notorynchus cepedianus) – in the Northern California Current System (NCCS). My research will provide the first insights into how this predator – and likely others – maintain these productive marine ecosystems through top-down interactions. My project focuses on integrating data from satellite and acoustic receivers and stomach content and stable isotope analyses from broadnose sevengills to better understand the ecosystem dynamics of NCCS systems, and will finally enable shark predators to be incorporated into our understanding of the area and wider NCCS (which has never been done before!). In other words, where do they go, what are they eating, and how does it affect us AND the fish that we eat here in the Pacific Northwest (salmon, halibut, crab, etc.)?
I am a first year PhD student at Oregon State University and before classes started this year, I was able to get out into the field to kick-off my research. We spent three days out on the boat, dropping hooks in the water baited with discarded salmon heads. We didn’t have to wait long to catch sharks…almost every time we dropped a line down, we’d quickly pull it back up with a sevengill on the end! For this field trip, we focused on deploying our acoustic tags. These tags provide fine-scale information on where/how the sharks are moving within a smaller, defined area (such as a bay). This summer, we will be deploying satellite tags that will track the sharks as they leave their summer bay residences in Oregon and head elsewhere. We will also be collecting stomach contents as well as tissue samples to do stable isotope analysis. The former will provide data on recent feedings, and the latter will provide foraging information on a longer scale – dating back weeks to months!
Additionally, my research will collaborate with local tribes through the incorporation of tribal youth into my fieldwork. We will be taking interested tribal youth members into the field to teach them techniques about shark catching and tagging while also helping me to better understand the cultural context around the research itself. I’m also looking forward to continued outreach and engagement, including a display at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Research Center! We’ll be setting up social media platforms soon so keep an eye out for those as well (in the meantime, those interested can check out the Big Fish Lab Instagram page. We’re also doing other great research on the movement of other shark species as well as shark physiology and stress responses!).
I am excited and proud to be one of the newest Oregon Sea Grant Scholars and contribute to OSG’s mission and values by informing methods for ecosystem-based management and promoting community and industry outreach and engagement. While I’m still getting a handle in first year of graduate school, I’m eager to full-steam ahead on my Big Fish Lab research in the spring and summer!