Dr. Chris Lowe is a professor in marine biology and director of the Shark Lab at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), where he and his students work with acoustic and satellite telemetry techniques to study the movement, behavior and physiology of sharks, rays and gamefishes.
Dr. Lowe earned his Bachelor of Arts in marine biology at Barrington College in Rhode Island and a Master of Science degree in biology at CSULB. In 1998, he achieved a doctorate in zoology, studying bioenergetics of juvenile hammerhead sharks, at the University of Hawaii.
In 1998, he returned to CSULB to teach marine biology and oversee the Shark Lab, which was founded in 1966 by Dr. Donald R. Nelson, a pioneer in the development and use of acoustic telemetry to study sharks. It has been Dr. Lowe's goal to maintain the history of innovation Dr. Nelson established. He and his students have been studying the baby and juvenile white sharks of Southern California and have greatly contributed to the field of knowledge for this enigmatic species. In addition, recent research by Dr. Lowe and his student team has focused on the development of underwater robots for autonomously tracking sharks and gamefishes. He has garnered several academic awards, including CSULB's 2008-2009 Outstanding Professor Award and 2012 Impact in Research Award.
Conservation success dilemma: The recovery of white sharks off California and what that means for conservation and coastal communities
The southern California marine ecosystem has experienced considerable change for well over a century as the result of anthropogenic stressors such as overfishing, coastal development, and pollution attributed to a large and growing human population. Ecosystem-wide effects, loss of adult prey and direct mortality due to fishing have likely reduced the North Pacific white shark population for nearly 100 years; however, conservation strategies put in place over the last 50 years has allowed for marine predator population recovery. Southern California beaches are considered an important nursery habitat for white sharks, where aggregations of juveniles can be found within 20 m of the shoreline, often at popular public beaches. Increased sightings of juvenile white sharks along the southern California coastline provide strong indication of population recovery and conservation success; however, also raises public safety concerns. Additionally, more people are using the ocean for recreation, particularly in southern California, than ever before. The CSULB Shark Lab has been employing novel technologies (e.g., telemetry, UAVs, AUVs, stable isotopes, and eDNA) to study this population to address biological questions related to nursery habitat use and public safety, through collaborations with Lifeguard Districts throughout the State. Since public perception of sharks is skewed toward fear and danger, the Shark Lab has implemented a variety of education and outreach tools to make current science more readily available to the public in attempts to change misconceptions about shark risk. This program highlights some approaches for dealing with long-term conservation success and the challenges that can arise as both human and predator population increase.