Science and Research

Tanya Griffin Houppermans is an American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) certified Scientific Diver who is at the forefront of shark research working with some of the world's most well-respected shark scientists and conservationists. Here is a sample of the projects Tanya has been involved in.


Sand Tiger Sharks


After partnering with the North Carolina Aquariums to develop the citizen science program Spot A Shark USA back in 2017 (see the Spot A Shark USA page on this website for more information), Tanya continues to work closely with Dr. Carol Seals Price, the project manager and lead scientists for Spot A Shark USA, to further our knowledge of western Atlantic sand tiger populations. One of the ways she does this is to use a technique called Paired Laser Photogrammetry (or PLP) to measure sand tigers during her dives off the coast of North Carolina. When Tanya attaches the PLP rig to her underwater camera housing, two green laser dots show up on the side of the shark she has photographed. Since the distance between the lasers on the PLP rig is known, an accurate length of the shark can then be calculated from the image itself without ever touching the shark. And let's face it, it's just cool to say that your job involves sharks and freaking laser beams!

  • Tanya calibrates the lasers she uses to measure sharks (photo courtesy of NC Aquariums)

    Tanya calibrates the lasers she uses to measure sharks (photo courtesy of NC Aquariums)

  • Two green laser dots are visible on the side of this sand tiger shark inside the wreck of the Aeolus at a depth of 90ft off the coast of North Carolina (photo by Tanya Griffin Houppermans)

    Two green laser dots are visible on the side of this sand tiger shark inside the wreck of the Aeolus at a depth of 90ft off the coast of North Carolina (photo by Tanya Griffin Houppermans)

Tanya speaking about her work in sand tiger research on the National Geographic program 'Shark Gangs'

Tanya speaking about her work in sand tiger research on the National Geographic program 'Shark Gangs'


Shark Reproduction


Working with Dr. Neil Hammerschlag of the Shark Research and Conservation Program at the University of Miami and Dr. James Sulikowski of the Sulikowski Shark and Fish Conservation Lab at Arizona State University, Tanya was part of a research expedition off the coast of Grand Bahama studying shark reproduction, particularly tiger sharks. The sharks were caught and safely secured to the side of the boat, at which point an ultrasound was conducted. If the shark was pregnant, then it was fitted with a tag. After tagging, each shark was quickly released unharmed. The information gathered from this research will help scientists learn more about where and when sharks give birth! (Cue Baby Shark song....).

  • Dr. James Sulikowski performs an ultrasound on a tiger shark (photo by Tanya Griffin Houppermans)

    Dr. James Sulikowski performs an ultrasound on a tiger shark (photo by Tanya Griffin Houppermans)

  • An underwater view of an ultrasound being conducted on a tiger shark (photo by Tanya Griffin Houppermans)

    An underwater view of an ultrasound being conducted on a tiger shark (photo by Tanya Griffin Houppermans)

  • The team affixes a satellite tag to the dorsal fin of a pregnant tiger shark (photo by Tanya Griffin Houppermans)

    The team affixes a satellite tag to the dorsal fin of a pregnant tiger shark (photo by Tanya Griffin Houppermans)

  • Dr. Neil Hammerschlag, Dr. James Sulikowski, and their team prepare to measure a massive great hammerhead shark (photo by Tanya Griffin Houppermans)

    Dr. Neil Hammerschlag, Dr. James Sulikowski, and their team prepare to measure a massive great hammerhead shark (photo by Tanya Griffin Houppermans)


Sharks of Winyah Bay


Tanya worked with Dr. Daniel Abel of Coastal Carolina University to catch, tag, and release sharks in Winyah Bay, South Carolina as part of the CCU Shark Project. The goals of this project are to identify sharks inhabiting Winyah Bay, Murrell’s Inlet, and North Inlet; describe shark population structure, distribution, and migrations and their environmental influences; determine whether these systems serve as nurseries; and identify human impacts. Several species of sharks have been identified in these areas, including lemon sharks, bull sharks, Atlantic sharpnose sharks, and sandbar sharks as seen in these images. Dr. Abel also uses these research cruises to teach his students about safe and proper shark handling and tagging techniques. For those interested in an informative, interesting, and comprehensive book about sharks, be sure to check out Dr. Abel's book that he co-authored with Dr. Dean Grubbs, Shark Biology and Conservation: Essentials for Educators, Students, and Enthusiasts.


Dr. Dan Abel and one of his graduate students carefully remove the hook from a sandbar shark so that it can be measured, tagged, and released (photo by Tanya Griffin Houppermans)

Dr. Dan Abel and one of his graduate students carefully remove the hook from a sandbar shark so that it can be measured, tagged, and released (photo by Tanya Griffin Houppermans)

Tanya quickly and securely moves an sandbar shark from the holding tank so that it can be tagged and measured (photo courtesy of Coastal Carolina University)

Tanya quickly and securely moves an sandbar shark from the holding tank so that it can be tagged and measured (photo courtesy of Coastal Carolina University)

Tanya measures the length of a sandbar shark (photo courtesy of Coastal Carolina University)

Tanya measures the length of a sandbar shark (photo courtesy of Coastal Carolina University)

Tanya safely releases a tagged sandbar shark back into Winyah Bay (photo courtesy of Coastal Carolina University)

Tanya safely releases a tagged sandbar shark back into Winyah Bay (photo courtesy of Coastal Carolina University)