Save the Sharks!

the CSU LONG BEACH shark lab is uncovering the mysteries of these clever ocean creatures
while GIVING STUDENTS world-class research opportunities.

sharing THE ocean

The more we learn about sharks, the more we can protect them and ourselves.
Sharks are an essential part of the ocean’s ecosystem, and yet much is still unknown about their populations, behavior and genetics. In studying these animals, students at the California State University, Long Beach Shark Lab program are immersed in one of the hottest areas of marine biology. Each is trained in quantitative reasoning and encouraged to make independent decisions in the field. The discoveries these future leaders make will improve public safety and help preserve California's and the planet's marine ecosystems.

Meet Emily

Meet Shark Lab graduate student Emily Meese, who has spent the last three years studying the movements and behaviors of California Horn Sharks.

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The waters around Catalina Island have served as an excellent laboratory for the Shark Lab's research over its 52-year history. Scroll over a shark to learn about some of the species students and faculty have studied.

Horn Shark

Heterodontus francisci

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Leopard Shark

Triakis semifasciata

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Great White Shark

Carcharodon carcharias

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Mako Shark

Isurus oxyrinchus

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Swell Shark

Cephaloscyllium ventriosum

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Blue Shark

Prionace glauca

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Meanwhile, Back at the Shark Lab…

Christopher Lowe, Ph.D, professor of marine biology, has led the CSU Long Beach Shark Lab for the past 20 years, and is a strong voice in the world of shark research and protection. Scroll down to learn more about some of the projects led by Dr. Lowe and his students.

We need to find new ways of sharing the ocean with sharks
that have rigorous science backing, so that we don’t go backwards. We continue to move forward and protect sharks because they are ecologically important, and in some cases, economically important.

— Chris Lowe, Ph.D., Director, CSULB Shark Lab

Current Projects

Here are a few of the current research projects being conducted by Shark Lab graduate students.
Despite its name, researchers at the Shark Lab study more than just sharks.



CSULB graduate student Laura Martinez-Steele is studying how a specific bacteria is infecting the brains of local Thresher and Salmon Shark babies. Her discoveries have spawned a whole new area of research and collaboration around the shark microbiome with microbiologists and geneticists. Her work also led to another project with fellow graduate student Hannah Freund.         

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Graduate student Jack May III is using state-of-the-art drone technology to study how pregnant Leopard Sharks gather in warm water areas along the coast of Southern California.         

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Fulbright Scholar and CSULB grad student Lorena Silva Garay is studying the metabolic rate of Southern California’s Round Stingrays to help predict where they will move in an effort to help lifeguards reduce beach injuries. More people are injured by stingrays and jellyfish than by sharks, says Dr. Chris Lowe.        

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A new Shark Lab graduate student is beginning a first-of-its-kind study on the metabolism of Alaska’s Pacific Sleeper Shark. This important deep ocean predator is related to the Greenland Shark, the oldest known vertebrate.         

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Emily attaches a custom monitoring device, like a Fitbit for sharks, to the dorsal fin of the Horn Shark. The device measures the shark's motion and allows her to track it in the ocean with an acoustic receiver. When Horn Sharks are flipped upside down, they enter a tonic immobility state where they are relaxed enough to be measured and tagged.

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On June 27, 2018, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the 2018 state budget which includes funding to research White Sharks in California. The last decade has seen a significant increase in the number of young White Sharks, especially along the coasts of Southern California; these act as nurseries for the animals. The increase in juvenile sharks is a very encouraging sign for sharks and the ocean, but with so many animals along the coast of these densely populated areas, public safety is a concern. Dr. Chris Lowe says the funding will help researchers answer important questions that the public and lifeguards want to know in order to keep people safe: "The more we learn, and the more we inform people, the safer people can be. And we can learn to share the ocean with these animals, because it's their home."

The fact that the state sees this as an important thing to invest in is great. It’s so exciting. I think it will be a model, for not just other states, but other countries.

— Dr. Chris Lowe, CSULB Shark Lab Director


Go to the Shark Lab


“Sharks have become the new dinosaurs,” says Dr. Chris Lowe, director of the CSULB Shark Lab, referring to the huge popularity of this field of study. “A lot of people who are interested in marine biology are enamored by sharks. The reality is, unfortunately, there has not been a lot of funding to do this kind of work [on sharks].”

Today’s marine biologists must be knowledgeable beyond just science, Lowe explains. “Being a marine biologist is more than just going in the field and going on a boat and diving… These days, you have to be a mathematician. You have to be a computer scientist. You have to be an engineer.”

Lowe looks for graduate students who understand and appreciate how to use math to better understand why sharks do what they do, and also how to leverage technology to answer these questions. The lab collaborates, too, across disciplines and with other universities. In a recent NSF-funded robotics collaboration, biology students at CSU Long Beach learned to communicate with engineering and computer science students at Harvey Mudd College using a common language: math.

In addition to CSULB’s Shark Lab, the CSU's Moss Landing Marine Laboratories operates the Pacific Shark Research Center, which also offers graduate research opportunities.


Undergraduate marine science degrees are offered at Fullerton, Humboldt, Long Beach, Monterey Bay, Northridge, San Diego, San José, San Luis Obispo and Sonoma.

CSULB graduate student Emily Meese recommends that prospective students find an undergraduate program that allows them to do hands-on research. "Dabble in many types of research in sharks, genetics, taxonomy, biology to figure out what you're passionate about," she says.

Marine science master’s degrees are offered at East Bay, Monterey Bay, Sacramento, San Francisco, San José and Stanislaus. At CSU Long Beach, Shark Lab graduate students are candidates for a master’s in biology.

Search for more marine-related degree programs throughout the CSU.


Story: Hazel Kelly


VIDEOGRAPHY: Patrick Record and Kevin Tran/CSU Long Beach

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