Shark Biology and Conservation

Course Dates

July 13, 2021 to July 27, 2021


At least one semester of college-level biology or equivalent; background in marine or vertebrate biology is recommended, but not required.

Course Description

Photo of shark specimen in tank

Dr. Marshall performs a lateral blood draw from a subadult white shark (Charcharodon carcharias) near Cape Cod, MA. Photo by John Chisholm.

The last 30 years have produced an explosion of new information on the biology of the approximately 1,000 living species of sharks, skates, rays, and chimaeras, which collectively make up the group Chondrichthyes. This course will cover advanced topics in the evolution, diversity, anatomy, functional morphology, physiology, sensory systems, behavior, reproduction, development, and conservation of cartilaginous fishes.

Learning outcomes for Shark Biology and Conservation include:

  • Understanding of elasmobranch phylogeny and evolution.
  • Knowledge of how evolution has resulted in a wide variety of elasmobranch anatomical, physiological and morphological specializations.
  • Develop a working knowledge of the research methods used to advance understanding of shark biology, ecology and conservation.
  • Understanding of shark research, objectives and study species in the Gulf of Maine.


Dr. Heather Marshall:

Dr. Marshall processing blood samples from a white shark. Photo courtesy OCEARCH.

Dr. Marshall's research interests are mainly focused around shark physiological ecology, with an emphasis on capture-related stress physiology and post-release mortality. She has studied many different species of sharks, but primarily her Master’s work focused on the cardiac and stress physiology of the shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus), blue (Prionace glauca), and porbeagle (Lamna nasus) sharks. Her Ph.D. work focused on the stress physiology and post-release mortality rates of the sandbar shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus), dusky shark (C. obscurus), and spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias). In the last few years, Dr. Marshall has been able to perform numerous tagging and blood sampling projects around the world, including work on the white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) with the non-profit OCEARCH, tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) with collaborators in Galapagos National Park, salmon sharks (L. distropis) with recreational fishermen in Alaska, Caribbean reef sharks (C. perezii) in The Bahamas, as well as coastal species such as the spinner (C. brevipinna) and blacktip (C. limbatus) sharks with colleagues and commercial fishermen in Florida. Dr. Marshall is a co-founder of The Gills Club, and currently a Research Scientist with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy.

Maggie Winchester:



Course Numbers

Cornell: BIOSM 4650 (3 Credits)
UNH: MEFB 741 (4 Credits)