Some scientists might be a bit nervous with a research subject that has seven sets of razor-sharp teeth.
But Steven Campana, head of the Canadian Shark Research Laboratory in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, isn’t bothered by it. The laboratory is part of the Bedford Institute of Oceanography at Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
He and his team run the only shark research laboratory in Canada. They’re on the front line of education and conservation—the first people to seek out these creatures, study them and pass on knowledge about them to others.
Travelling around the world
"The best part of my job is that I’m discovering new information that could change the world through conservation, preservation and smart fishing practices," Steven says.
"Not to mention that I get to travel around the world working with these incredible animals."
Special place in his heart
The study of these ancient creatures remains a passionate interest for Steven.
"I wear three hats in my job," he says. "One is assessing the number of East Coast fish to develop quotas. The second one is using the otolith—part of the ear of a fish—to develop new methods to determine the age and growth of fish. The third one—and the one I’m most excited about—is research about sharks."
Currently, his team is putting satellite tags, a handy new scientific gadget, on several different species of sharks that visit Canadian waters. These tags will provide vital data on their behaviour and movements over the next year.
Like Christmas morning
"After the tag releases from the shark, which it does automatically after a certain period, it floats to the surface, transferring all the data to us by satellite feed," says Steven "When that information comes in, it’s like Christmas morning around here!"
Steven has been in the marine business a long time. In the early 1980s, he was poised to take a fellowship with an American university under a supervisor who specialized in sharks. But at the last moment, the supervisor opted to drop out of shark research because of safety concerns. So instead, Steven decided to continue with his PhD in the field of fisheries biology.
Ironically, this change of heart actually pushed him closer to shark research later in his career. In 1998, Steven was offered the chance to set up the Shark Research Laboratory on Canada’s East Coast. He jumped at the opportunity.
Best possible thing
"In retrospect, it was the best possible thing that could have happened," says Steven. "It gave me a more generalized skill-set before I specialized in shark research."
He says he’s confident he made the right decision. "I’m exactly where I’ve always wanted to be. Joining the Public Service was the best choice. I’m doing my dream job. Except for the seasickness, of course," he adds.