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Join Mote Marine Laboratory apex predator expert Wes Pratt aboard the R/V Tiburon as we cruise the out islands of the Florida Keys searching for sharks in the realm of coral and sea grass. Help capture and tag specimens of the docile nurse shark, key to understanding the biology of more fierce species of sharks. Assist in downloading the latest remote shark monitoring equipment.
Accompany marine biologist Wes Pratt in his ongoing research efforts to unravel the mysteries surrounding the animal at the very top of the oceanic food web… the shark! From helping on the deck of the Tiburon to joining the hunt with wet suit and net, your days are filled with adventure. Help capture and tag juvenile nurse sharks. In the last few years scientists Wes Pratt and his colleague Dr. Jeff Carrier of Albion College have tagged well over 250 adult and juvenile nurse sharks in this area.
Marine biologist and shark expert Wes Pratt has been tagging sharks underwater and from the decks of research vessels for the past 35 years. Currently Staff Scientist with Mote Marine Laboratory, Wes was a shark specialist with NOAA for three decades. His professional career work has been directed toward understanding the life history of blue, short fin mako, great white, sandbar and nurse sharks. He has worked with the Dry Tortugas population of juveniles and adult nurse sharks for 12 consecutive years. His cutting-edge research into the mating behavior of nurse sharks in the Florida Keys utilizes underwater video, photography and National Geographic's Crittercam to reveal the unknown, and often unexpected, complex behaviors of these fascinating but poorly understood predators.
Snorkel the clear pristine waters of the westernmost
Day 1 (Friday) - Arrive in Key West, 5PM board the exploration support vessel Tiburon and find your assigned cabin. Join the crew for orientation and a safety briefing. Enjoy appetizers and crudités until 6:30PM. All aboard by 8PM for an evening departure.
Day 2 (Saturday) - Awaken at sea off the beautiful Tortugas Islands. A brief orientation in the galley sets the stage for the next few days. We will use Tiburon's tender to support snorkel dives to patch reefs and other areas where we are likely to see small nurse sharks. You can help spot the sharks and assist as Wes Pratt catches them in his shark net. All of the sharks caught will be examined and sampled for study. All sharks will be tagged and released alive. In the evening we will anchor next to Fort Jefferson and after dinner, enjoy an interactive presentation on sharks and coral reef ecology.
Day 3 (Sunday) - Awake for an early breakfast and go ashore on Garden Key in the Dry Tortugas to explore the historic Civil War era Fort Jefferson. The afternoon will be spent kayaking near the Bird Key tern rookery and Long Key frigate bird colony or swimming, snorkeling and relaxing on the beach at Garden Key. A team led by Wes will search for and recover four out of the sixteen shark monitors that have been placed strategically to intercept shark signals. Each monitor will be cleaned, debriefed and equipped with a new battery, as Wes illustrates the details of the research.
Day 4 (Monday) - Day four begins with an early morning rendezvous with a commercial shrimp-fishing vessel. See first hand the process of bringing shrimp from the ocean to the market. Spend the morning snorkeling with large pelagic animals including dolphins and turtles. These animals all can be seen and photographed easily from the deck of the boat. The area is also an aggregation site for sharks and an important monitoring station for the shark research. This location features some of the most amazing encounters with turtles in their natural environment known to exist. The afternoon will be spent snorkeling the historic 200-foot Dutch shipwreck "Killian" sunk in 1907 and now resting in 1 to 18 feet of water. The “Killian” is home to several nurse sharks, Goliath Grouper and an amazing formation of coral gardens. The evening concludes with a presentation from the Tiburon crew covering the numerous research and conservation projects taking place in the Dry Tortugas and beyond.
Day 5 (Tuesday) - After breakfast we embark on the day's shark hunt to explore the Dry Tortugas more remote reefs and coral formations. Lobsters are protected in the Tortugas National Park and grow to a giant size. Large grouper and colorful reef fish are common around every reef and coral head. Any juvenile sharks caught will be tagged, sampled and released. In the afternoon, a team will replace the shark monitors to continue their sonic vigil. The Tiburon will then depart for the Marquesas Islands and anchor there. Dolphins, turtles and sea birds are commonly sighted on the way.
Day 6 (Wednesday) - Awaken at sea off the beautiful Marquesas Islands. Spend the morning exploring the natural beauty of these remote islands and reefs as we work our way back to the homeport of Key West. Activities can include snorkeling, introduction to scuba (no certification required), scuba and kayaking. After our final day exploring we return to our docks and enjoy a farewell dinner aboard. Guests are welcome to stay aboard overnight and depart the next morning.
Day 7 (Thursday) - Continental breakfast before departure from the Tiburon by 9AM.
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