CCU marine science professor featured on Nat Geo’s Sharkfest 2020 series
According to Abel, in late October and November of 2019, he led two film crews from Optomen Productions out on Winyah Bay to catch and release sharks for the series, “When Sharks Attack.” In the first show, “Four Strikes Summer,” which aired on July 20, he said scientists examined some of the conjectures related to specific shark attacks.
The second show, “10 Minutes of Terror,” aired on July 22. During that episode, scientists investigated four shark attacks that occurred within 10 minutes of each other near Myrtle Beach, S.C., which is approximately 10 miles from the CCU campus.
“We had much better fishing luck with the second production crew, catching and releasing six Sandbar Sharks, one 6-ft. Bull Shark, one 7.5-ft. Lemon Shark, one Cownose Ray, which was our first one in 20 years, and two Bull Red Drums,” Abel said.
Abel said the crew conducted about four hours of interviews and filmed many of his students, including graduate students Jeremy Arnt, Alex Oathout, Gabrielle Donatelli, Andrew Sitlinger, Meredith Langford, Lily Rios-Brady, and Matt Rodriguez. The undergraduate students included Rachel Hildebrand and Brittani Bryce, an exchange student from Exeter University. The captains included Edwin Jayroe, Sam Gary, and Paul Kenny. Cecilia Krahforst, a visiting assistant professor of marine science, also participated.
Abel’s research is part of the CCU Shark Project, which is an ongoing longline survey of sharks of Winyah Bay and nearby estuarine and coastal waters. It has both an educational and research component. The former involves training students how to design and implement demographic and other field and lab studies involving sharks, including how to prepare for and conduct longline cruises.
His forthcoming book, “Shark Biology and Conservation: Essentials for Educators, Students and Enthusiasts,” is a comprehensive overview of the diversity, evolution, ecology, behavior, physiology, anatomy, and conservation of sharks.
Abel, who joined the CCU faculty in 1994, is serving as the first Distinguished Honors Faculty Fellow of the HTC Honors College and Center for Interdisciplinary Studies at CCU. His areas of scholarly interest include sharks, environmental issues, sustainability, land use, pollution, overpopulation, energy consumption, green building, and sting rays.
Abel earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the College of Charleston in 1978 and 1981, respectively, and a Ph.D. in marine biology from the University of California San Diego’s Scripps Institute of Oceanography in 1986. He was a postdoctoral fellow in marine bio-medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina.