This summer, Leonardo Feitosa, an undergraduate student from the Universidade Federal Do Maranhão in Brazil, worked with Dr. Dean Grubbs as a part of his undergraduate internship. He assisted in the Big Bend shark survey field work, mended gear such as gillnets for the Grubbs Laboratory, analyzed data for Dr. Grubbs’ sawfish work, and assisted researchers on a Deep-C research cruise. Leonardo hopes to continue his education and begin graduate school in order to study shark or ray ecology, so he says that he has really enjoyed the opportunity to take part in the Big Bend shark survey. Leonardo says that he doesn’t get the chance to go out in the field very often, so gaining field experience has been very valuable for him.
For his senior thesis, Leonardo is examining shark bycatch by local fisherman. Sharks that are sold in the local fish markets of Maranhão are often sold without head or fins. Thus, it is difficult to tell what species of sharks are being sold. Leonardo acquires muscle and/or fin clip samples by visiting local fish markets in Maranhão and taking samples from the sharks before they are prepped for sale at the market. He then conducts forensic genetics analysis on specimens to see if endangered shark species are being caught and sold in the local fish markets.
Prior to his shark research, Leonardo was studying butterflies in a small patch of the Amazon Rain Forest. He was assigned to this lab when he began his undergraduate work. However, when the opportunity arose to join the Genetics and Molecular Biology Laboratory, he was quite thrilled to follow his passion to study shark biology.
Leonardo returned to Brazil in August. We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.