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Dr. Toby Daly-Engel, an assistant professor of biology at the University of West Florida, will be featured as part of the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” coverage, which begins June 26.

Daly-Engel, who researches the evolution of shark reproductive strategies, was interviewed by the Discovery Channel and is expected be part of the online content that accompanies its popular week of shark-centered television programming. Daly-Engel said her interview will be part of a feature on female scientists who study sharks.

“I love Shark Week,” Daly-Engel said. “I grew up watching it just like lots of other folks. So to work with people from the Discovery Channel was exciting. Any time I get to talk about my research, which I’m really passionate about, is a good day.”

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UWF graduate students Cody Nash, Maggie McClain, Ariel Egan and Matt Davis with Dr. Toby S. Daly-Engel (center). (Michael Spooneybarger/Special to The Pulse)

There aren’t many women working as principal investigators in shark research, Daly-Engel said. She said she was one of the first in the country doing field work when she was hired at UWF.

“Being a female PI (principal investigator) is rare,” she said. “Having a female-run lab that does field work on sharks is even more rare.”

Part of Daly-Engel’s research revolves around monitoring local shark essential habitats. Her study is part of the Gulf of Mexico Shark Pupping and Nursery project, which the Southeast Fisheries Science Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Panama City laboratory has been conducting since 2003.

The program monitors the distribution and populations of sharks, skates and rays in the Gulf of Mexico in order to define and protect essential fish habitats, which are areas deemed critical to the survival of a species, mostly because they’re used for reproduction.

Daly-Engel also works with the Gills Club, a group dedicated to connecting girls interested in sharks with female scientists working in the field. She was interviewed by the Discovery Channel in her office using Google Hangouts. Among the questions she was asked was how she became interested in sharks and why her research is important.

The interview is expected to air on discovery.com and sharkweek.com sometime next week.

“Research on shark reproduction is important because many shark populations are at-risk or threatened, and we lack data on most of these in terms of where and how these animals are being born,” Daly-Engel said. “So figuring out what sharks need for healthy reproduction is important for management, and to preserve the ecological health of ocean systems.”

creo-west-floridaThis article was originally published by the UWF Center for Research and Economic Opportunity, or CREO.
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