Mahmood Shivji, Ph.D.
Director of the Guy Harvey Research Institute,
The Home of the Sharks is Saving the Sharks
Before NSU became home of the Sharks, it was already home to a world-renowned shark expert. Professor Mahmood Shivji, Ph.D. is the director of the Guy Harvey Research Institute at the NSU Oceanographic Center. His research, which has garnered international attention, integrates genetic and field research to provide information that improves conservation of marine species, threatened populations of sharks in particular.
Using an innovative, one-step DNA test he developed, Shivji can distinguish shark fins down to the species. This is vital to the protection of sharks, allowing scientists to differentiate between, for example, the basking shark, which has high-value fins and is listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, and the sand tiger shark, which is threatened due to over-fishing.
The compelling accuracy of these DNA tests have led the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s law enforcement arm to begin using them as confirmation in cases where they suspect prohibited species are being caught. Shivji has developed similar DNA tests to identify billfish, which are also heavily fished. His DNA research also led to the amazing discovery that female sharks can give virgin birth, and finding new species of sharks, billfish and rays.
Shivji’s research has consistently received worldwide coverage in major media outlets, including Time, Newsweek, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Economist, the BBC and National Public Radio. His research on the shark fin trade and its impacts on shark populations is currently being exhibited in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.
Shivji, who teaches graduate and undergraduate students at NSU’s Oceanographic Center and Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences respectively, remains incredulous that he gets paid to have adventures in remarkable places around the world. His research has taken him to areas such as Brazil, the Cayman Islands, US Virgin Islands, Belize, Red Sea, and the Philippines.