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Biology of Sharks in Bimini, Bahamas

Coastal’s Department of Marine Science offers an exceptional opportunity for field experience in Biology of Sharks at the Bimini Biological Field Station (BBFS) in the Bahamas. The course features lectures, discussions, analysis o­f research papers, frequent field trips, video presentations, and personal encounters with several species of large, actively feeding, and free-swimming sharks. Lectures focus on broad aspects of the biology of sharks, including: diversity, evolution, anatomy, physiology, behavior, ecology, fisheries, captive biology, conservation, and biomedical uses. The majority of the academic work will be field-oriented. This fieldwork will introduce students to research techniques used at Coastal Carolina University and BBFS, where research on sharks has been ongoing for over 20 years.

Preliminary Itinerary:

Before leaving for Bimini, students will participate in a number of classroom activities (lectures, discussions) focused on introducing them to the biology of sharks and their trip to Bimini. We will take a half-day research cruise on the R/V Coastal II, during which we will set several experimental shark longlines. Any sharks captured will be identified, measured, sampled for DNA, and tagged and released. After a short but rigorous training session and observing the experienced Coastal Carolina University shark team set and retrieve the longlines and handle the sharks, students will be given an opportunity to do the same.

May 13-17, 2013: On site at Coastal Carolina University

May 17 – 24, 2013: Bimini, Bahamas:

The Bimini Biological Field Station is a world-renown center of excellence in the study of shark biology and the director, Dr. Samuel “Sonny” Gruber, is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading shark experts. During our stay at BBFS, we will be either participating in lectures, on a variety of field trips (see examples below), or engaging in informal discussions about sharks, careers, environmental issues, or ways that students can work their way back to the lab as a volunteer or staff member (numerous CCU students have done so!). Although the course schedule is rigidly set (e.g., breakfast at 0730, lecture from 0830 – 1000, feed lemon sharks and rays in shark pen from 1030 – 1200, etc.), we are at the mercy of the weather and the success of longlines. So a lecture might be interrupted by the presence of a 12-foot tiger shark on a longline, in which case we grab our snorkel gear, throw on a life vest (a Coastal Carolina University requirement), hop in one of the boats, and motor the 15 minutes to the line. Once there, we will watch as the shark is worked up, then while the animal is tethered to the boat, we will get in the water and take pictures of one of the most magnificent beasts on the planet. The entire week, which flies by way too fast, is a combination of opportunistic lectures, insightful discussions, slowly acquiring a sense of place in the Bahamas, and sharks, sharks, and more sharks.

May 28–31, 2013 Coastal Carolina University campus (lectures and shark crusies)

When we return to Coastal Carolina University, we meet to discuss journal articles about Bimini from the shark literature, and
we take 2 -3 more shark research cruises on the R/V Coastal II.

Meet This Program’s Leader

Dr. Daniel C. Abel, Associate Professor
Email: dabel@coastal.edu
Phone: 843-349-2257

danabel Dr. Abel has taught this course, one of the first and still one of the few in the United States, for over 15 years. He conducted his dissertation at Scripps Institution of Oceanography on heart function in sharks, and currently studies the ecology of sharks inSouth Carolina waters.

"If you're passionate about learning about sharks, especially in their environment, if you're not afraid of swimming next to an 8-foot Caribbean reef shark, and if you don't mind the tropical ocean as one of your classrooms, then this rigorous introduction to shark biology might be just what you're looking for."

What students take away from this course, in addition to learning about the biology of sharks, is the observation that a passionate group of dedicated people – the folks at the Bimini Biological Field Station -- can accomplish great things when they care enough and work hard enough to gain insight into a problem. This is a lesson that never fades.

Frequently Asked Questions:

When is the deadline for application?

The priority deadline for this program is Friday, Nov. 2, 2012.  The general application deadline is Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, but some programs may be full by this deadline and so applicants are encouraged to apply as early as possible.  https://www.coastal.edu/academics/international/studyabroad/application/

When does this program take place?

May 13-17, 2013 at Coastal Carolina University, May 17-24, 2013 in Bimini and May 28-31, 2013 at Coastal Carolina University.

What is the cost of this study abroad program?

The program costs of approximately $3,240 include:

  • air and ground transportation from Myrtle Beach to/from Bimini
  • room and board ( 3 meals a day and snacks)
  • tips
  • all field trips in Bimini

Program costs do not include:  tuition, the cost of a passport and an international student ID. The latter is available from the International Programs office for approximately $22. Participants will also need a mask, fins, snorkel, and weight belt (but no weights –these will be provided in Bimini).

When are payments due for the program?


$500 due with application

Second Payment

Dec. 14, 2012 - 1/3 of remaining balance

Third Payment

Jan. 18, 2013- 1/3 of remaining balance

Fourth Payment

Feb. 15, 2013- pay remaining balance

Final Payment – tuition only

May 9, 2013

Coastal Carolina University tuition will be billed at the rate of $290 per credit hours.  All payments are to be made to the Office of Student Accounts for credit to the respective study abroad program.  The payment due dates are fixed. If payments are not received on or before the due dates, students will be dropped from the program.

What is the refund policy?

If after submitting your application and paying the $500 deposit, you are not accepted into the program, your deposit will be refunded within two weeks.  If Coastal Carolina University finds it necessary to cancel the program, all payments made will be refunded.  In the event the participant finds it necessary to cancel, we will make every effort to refund monies paid, less the $500 deposit and any funds already committed to vendors for the program.

How many credit hours can I complete during this program?

Undergraduates have the opportunity to complete MSCI 473 and MSCI 473L (4 credit) hours and graduate students may complete MSCI 573 and MSCI 573L (also 4 credit hours).

Does this course/program satisfy core curriculum requirements?

Neither of the courses in this program satisfy core curriculum requirements, but they do count for upper level marine science major requirements.

Are scholarships or financial aid available for this program?            

The Horry County Higher Education Commission International Awareness Award is available to assist graduates of accredited high schools in Horry County to participate in these programs.  YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE ACCEPTED INTO A SHORT-TERM STUDY ABROAD PROGRAM TO APPLY FOR THE SCHOLARSHIP. To determine whether you have additional eligibility for financial aid during the summer short term study abroad programs, please see your financial aid counselor in Kingston Hall. Scholarship applications are due in the Office of International Programs by Nov. 2, 2012.  The applications for the scholarship can be accessed here: Horry County Higher Education Commission International Awareness Award, 2012-13   .

Are there any prerequisites for this study?

The prerequisite for this course is BIO 122, and permission from the instructor.

What will this course be like?

One student described the course as a little sleep, a lot of great food, and more knowledge of sharks than he had imagined could be crammed into such a short amount of time. The lectures are comprehensive, but the field trips become the course’s lab, and science, it is said, is learned in the lab.

 Field Work includes:

  • Longlining in Winyah Bay, North Inlet, Murrells Inlet, and the near shore coastal waters off of Garden City Beach
  • Tagging and releasing sharks in local waters. The species usually encountered include sandbar sharks (Carcharhinus plumbeus), Atlantic sharpnose sharks (Rhizoprionodon terraenovae), blacktip sharks (C. limbatus), along with others such as lemon and bull sharks
  • PIT and dart tagging/releasing of medium and large sharks captured on longlines.  The usual species encountered are the lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris) and the tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvieri)
  • Telemetry-tracking of sharks with surgically implanted ultrasonic transmitters
  • Collecting juvenile lemon sharks with gill-nets in their mangrove nursery grounds; Biological workup including morphometrics and tissue sampling for genetic analyses; Implanting PIT microtags, followed by recovery and release of the captured individuals
  • Organization of several observational shark dives (snorkeling only), enabling students to view several species of free-swimming, actively feeding elasmobranchs in a natural setting. Species observed include the Caribbean reef shark (Carcharhinus perezi), blacknose shark (C. acronotus), blacktip shark (C. limbatus), nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum), Caribbean sharpnose shark (Rhizoprionodon porosus) and the southern stingray (Dasyatis americana), and occasionally others (bull shark,  hammerhead shark)
  • Chase downs of lemon sharks in the lagoon
  • Stingray feeding at Honeymoon Harbor
  • Hand-feeding juvenile lemon sharks in mangrove swamp
  • Chumming for bull sharks (C. leucas) off Alice Town docks

Do I need vaccinations to participate?

Coastal Carolina University adheres to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations.  Please visit the website http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/ for your destination.

What are the physical demands of this program?

Participants should be in good physical condition, must be able to swim and snorkel, and must be able to stay in the water for up to an hour.

For More Information, Please Contact:

The Office of International Programs & Services
Mr. Geoffrey Parsons, M.Ed.
Director, International Programs & Services
843-349-2054 / parsons@coastal.edu
Singleton Building 119

Ms. Lori Patterson, M.P.S.
Coordinator/Advisor, Study Abroad
843-349-2684 / lori@coastal.edu
Singleton Building 119