Members of the Cal State Long Beach Shark Lab are eager to test the waters in the newest addition to their collection of aquatic vessels.
The Shark Lab, headed by Director of the CSULB Shark Lab Chris Lowe, recently received donations from two local shark enthusiasts which were used to purchase a new surveying vessel. The vessel was dubbed “Mustelus,” the genus name for the grey smooth-hound shark.
“We like to name our boats after species that we’re interested in studying,” Lowe said. “This boat is mainly going to be studying baby white sharks and that the genus of that name was already taken, so we had to come up with a new name.”
One of the donations was used to purchase a Yamaha outboard motor, while the other covered the cost of the boat, a Boston Whaler.
“Mustelus” is the fourth boat that has been offered as a donation to the Shark Lab, with its predecessors being sold once they no longer meet the needs of the lab. The Boston Whaler, due to being designed completely out of foam, is unsinkable and cost efficient. However, it is not very fast.
“Most universities don’t have these kinds of resources,” Lowe said. “These are the tools that give our students a leg up in the competition. If you’re going to train somebody to be a marine biologist today, and they have had no experience [boating], who would hire them?”
With many students eager to get out on the water, it can be hard for the lab to accommodate everyone. Some surveying trips can last up to a week, and with only one boat, the new addition is greatly appreciated by students and faculty.
“I’ve worked on all the boats that we have here helping with the white shark [research]. I’ve actually been on the Whaler overnight while we were tracking a shark. So that’s usually what we do with [the boats]. I know the lab’s going to use it a lot for sure.”
According to Lowe, the boat is one of five vessels that will be used for multiple purposes; it will function not only as a surveying boat, but as transportation for students working on Catalina Island as part of the graduate school research program.
“During the summers we get pretty busy so they’ll probably be using one of [the boats] to go after white sharks,” said Jack May, a graduate student with a masters in biology. “And then with the other one we can also carry out other research. It basically allows us to do two things at once which is really nice.”
While “Mustelus” has not seen the water yet, Lowe is eager to get the motor started and hit the open sea, especially with the abundance of sharks in the area this time of year.
“Right now, there are sharks around and we’re just waiting for a good window of weather,” Lowe said. “Because when we do it, it has to be really calm, really flat and no swell because we’re working right in the surf zone.”