By Derek Devine
Melissa Márquez ’15 has already had a lifetime full of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities as a marine biologist. She was recently featured on Shark Week’s “Great White Kill Zone: Guadalupe” where she joined Dr. Yannis Peter Papastamatiou and his Ph.D. student Sarah Luongo, venturing out to Guadalupe Island to learn about great white shark hunting behavior.
Located 150 miles off the coast of Baja California, Guadalupe Island is a hot spot for great white sharks that congregate to target thriving seal populations. The waters are crystal clear and the sharks are in plain sight, making it more difficult to stalk prey and launch an attack. Knowing the challenge at hand, the team set out with one major question in mind: “Where do great whites primarily hunt in such clear terrain?”
Using cutting-edge technology and special cameras, the team revealed never-before-seen hunting behavior.
“I’m glad the show highlighted how difficult this type of research can be,” says Márquez, who primarily studies sharks, their habitat use and how the general perception of these predators influences their conservation. “From the sharks not cooperating, to inclement weather, losing tags, and even seasickness, these are all things shark scientists can face while out in the field.”
With the data collected and analyzed by Papastamatiou and Luongo, the team peeled back another layer of the mystery of great whites. Márquez knows there is always so much more to explore when researching sharks.
“I love being able to be a part of new discoveries and educate people about these amazing animals,” says Márquez. “My goal is to know why sharks are where they are and why they go where they go.”
Márquez is no stranger to starring on Shark Week since she was featured in an episode in 2018. The original opportunity to be discovered on the popular series came after a representative from the Discovery Channel saw her popular TEDX talk at TedXWellington titled, “Are Sharks and Female Scientists More Alike Than You Think?”
For Márquez, appearing on Shark Week is much more than having the ability to showcase her talents and passions for the world to see. It is an opportunity for her life to come full circle and a reminder that she is fulfilling a lifelong goal.
“At a young age, Shark Week inspired me to be a scientist, so working with great white sharks on television allows me to live out my dream, and a dream of many others,” says Márquez. “Having a chance to highlight great white sharks in my home (Mexico) was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I was lucky to have.”
If you would like to see Márquez featured on Shark Week, click here.
– Derek Devine is the social media manager at New College of Florida