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Biology of Sharks in Bimini, Bahamas

Sign for Bimini biological station"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."-- Dan Abel

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.

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.

Bimini - swimming with sharks

Location: Bimini, Bahamas
Program Dates: Maymester 2014 - Typically first week. 
Instructor(s): Daniel Abel, Ph.D. 
Program Fee (not including Tuition): Approximately $3650  
Tuition Fee: $350/credit hour 
Courses Offered:

MSCI 473 (Biology of Sharks) - 3 credits
473L (Biology of Sharks Laboratory) - 1 credit               

MSCI 573/573L (Graduate Level Biology of Sharks) - 4 credits


MSCI 473/L - BIO 122, and permission from the instructor. Coreq: MSCI 473L. 

MSCI 573/L - Permission from the instructor

All 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. 

Do any of the course(s) satisfy core curriculum requirements? No,  neither of the courses in this program satisfy core curriculum.
Is a Passport required? Yes, students must have a valid passport to participate on this program.
Are vaccinations needed 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.

*Program costs include air and ground transportation from Myrtle Beach to/from Bimini; room and board (3 meals a day and snacks); and 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 as these will be provided in Bimini).

Additional Information

Bimini research stationAbout the Bimini Biological Field Station (BBFS): This 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.Bimini trip, taking shark measurements

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.

More About the Course: 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 may include:‌

  • LBimini trip field workonglining in Winyah Bay, North Inlet, Murrells Inlet, and the near shore coastal waters off o
  • f 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

Course Descriptions

MSCI 473 (Biology of Sharks): An introduction to the biology of sharks. Lecture component covers evolution, anatomy, behavior, natural history, physiology, conservation, and ecology. Classes will be held on campas and at the Bimini Field Station. 

MSCI 473L (Biology of Sharks Laboratory): Lab topics will include taxonomy, diversity, anatomy, and physiology. Field activities will include capture, identification, work-up, and tagging of sharks; telemetry tracking; and observation of shark behavior in both their natural habitat and captivity. This laboratory will be held on campus, in local waters, and at the Bimini Field Station.  

MSCI 573/573L (Biology of Sharks): This is a graduate level course and lab on the biology of sharks. 

About the Program Leader

Dan Abel
Dr. Daniel Abel, an Associate Professor in the College of Science, 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 in South Carolina waters.




Apply Now

Maymester/Short-Term Online Application

Be prepared to supply the following information at the time you apply: 

- Statement of purpose (a Word document or PDF)
- An academic reference
- Copy of your transcript
- A health form and participation fitness certification

For More Information, Please Contact:

The Office of International Programs & Services
Ms. Lori Patterson, M.P.S.
Coordinator/Advisor, Study Abroad 
843-349-2684 / lori@coastal.edu
Singleton Building 119