Hadera Sharks with National Geographic

Last October, MKMRS’ very own Emerging Explorer, Dr Aviad Scheinin, and postdoctoral fellow Dr Leigh Allison Livne, were awarded the prestigious Wayfinder grant for their research on movements and reproduction of the sandbar and dusky shark in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The Marine Apex Predator lab has tagged 100 sharks and is studying their movements along the Israeli coastal shelf every November to May. But interestingly, both species disappear from Israeli waters outside of these months, and the sandbar sharks are seen in Turkish coastal waters from June to late October! Could our sandbar sharks be going there?

This question has been on the mind of the Nat Geo team – our other project team members include Dr. Aytaç Özgül of Ege University and Vahit Alan of the Mediterranean Conservation Society; both institutes are based in Turkey. The first stage of the proposal included inviting our Turkish team to Israel, so they could learn to catch and tag sharks back home. In the second stage of the proposal, Drs Scheinin and Livne will travel to Turkey in July, in hopes of tagging the first sharks outside of Israel! We will further cement the knowledge that our team members have gained here in Israel and hope to understand if our Israeli aggregation is visiting Turkish waters.

But what about the sharks that are pregnant? Never fear, this project is also focusing on them! Under the guidance of renowned scientist Dr James Sulikowski, we hope to solve the mystery of where this species gives birth and habitat use during their gestation. This project also covers (finally) the purchase of the coveted Ibex EVO III portable ultrasound. Brooke Anderson is currently visiting until the end of this week to tag 3 females before the end of the season. Dr Livne will also bring this ultrasound to Turkey in July, to scan the pregnant sandbar sharks. Other aspects of Dr Livne’s postdoctorate include using a range of hormone and blood biochemical markers, as well as ultrasonography to determine the fecundity and maternal condition of the sharks. She has been a part of the Israeli shark tagging team since 2019 and was initially trained to tag sharks in 2009 at the Bimini Biological Field Station, Bahamas.