FAU science professor receives over $100,000 for shark research in Israel

In a partnership with the University of Haifa, Stephen Kajiura and one of his graduate students will help track and study the Mediterranean’s recent shark activity.


Stephen Kajiura, Ph.D., is a professor in FAU’s Department of Biological Sciences and has been teaching at the university since 2003. Photo by Violet Castano

James Madera, Contributing Writer

From the time FAU professor Stephen Kajiura was a child in landlocked southern Ontario, he adored anything that has to do with sharks.

This fascination would lead to his career in studying sharks, and his latest research project is to do just that at Israel’s University of Haifa with a $117,501 grant funded by the Leon H. Charney Foundation. The school has witnessed a recent swell of sharks in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and is interested in starting an exchange program where students from Israel will visit FAU and vice versa to learn how to study the phenomenon, Kajiura said.

The grant money will cover graduate student salaries, travel, lab equipment and supplies, as well as host a visiting student and a summer course in Israel, he added.

Every winter, thousands of sharks migrate to South Florida and go back north during the spring. Kajiura, who teaches in the Department of Biological Sciences and has been at FAU since 2003, and his graduate students put trackers on the sharks to study their migration patterns.

He chose to settle in South Florida because he believes the warm weather year-round makes for an ideal environment to study sharks.

“These sharks are right here in our backyard during winter. This makes FAU the only institution that is able to study the sharks while they’re here,” he said.

His research focuses on two key aspects: sensory biology, which is how sharks perceive the world around them, and migration patterns.  

Kajiura wants to apply these same research methods in Israel because he sees similar migration patterns between sharks in the Mediterranean and Florida, he said.

Beth Bowers, one of Kajiura’s graduate students, will be visiting Israel for two weeks in December, while Kajiura will travel there next summer.

Bowers will gain hands-on experience in Israel by logging sharks’ behavior each day via their trackers.

“I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity and for all of the opportunities I have been afforded because of Dr. Kajiura,” Bowers said. “He is an incredible mentor, who takes a hands-off approach that allows his mentees to become competent, independent researchers.”

Bowers is the only student going to Israel this time, but Kajiura hopes to send one student each year if funding for the program increases.

James Madera is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].