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Undergraduate students working on shark research

TAMPA, Fla. -- While some University of South Florida students opt to spend their summer days relaxing, other students like Chelsea Conley and Ryan McKenzie choose to gain hands-on research experience. They spent all summer and the current fall semester working alongside renowned shark expert Philip Motta, a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology.

Conley is looking specifically at the Mako shark’s modified scales and how the scales reduce drag in the water. Her research will help engineers and the military to better understand how to build machines, like ships and airplanes, to reduce drag in the water or air.

McKenzie is looking at the lateral line, which allows the shark to sense disturbances in the water around them. The shape and position that the scales are in around the lateral line helps sharks search for prey and find it when it is close.

The students also explained the reasoning behind choosing to look at the Mako shark. The Mako is a very fast swimming shark, and because the scales are flexible and change in different sections of the shark’s body, they swim much faster in the water.

Conley and McKenzie both knew that they wanted to work with marine life from a very young age. Conley, a Cocoa Beach native, said that she originally wanted to work as a dolphin trainer, but has since changed her mind.

“I really want to do something that makes a difference,” Conley said.

McKenzie shared the same sentiment. Growing up on the east coast allowed him to spend a lot of time fishing and at the water. He was inspired by this lifestyle and would like to study functional morphology, or the structure of things.

Both students are looking to apply for graduate school upon graduating this fall.


Filed under:Arts and Sciences Research Integrative Biology Student Success  
Author: Lauren Laffer