SEA Days: Shark and Ray Day

Every month, the third Saturday is a special day at Birch Aquarium: SEA Days!

As the tagline suggests, SEA Days are always full of  “Science, Exploration and Adventure.” Visitors and members can meet a Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego or local researcher and get hands-on with science, participate in activity stations, and get creative with a thematic craft.

Name:  Andy Nosal

Hometown:  Bridgewater, New Jersey

Schooling Background:  

B.S. in Biology from University of Virginia

Ph.D. in Marine Biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography

One word to describe a characteristic a scientist must have:  Patience


Marine Biologist Dr.Andy Nosal studies leopard sharks along La Jolla Shores.

1.) How does leopard shark research affect a person’s everyday life?

The leopard shark is a wonderful model species for studying general aspects of behavior, ecology, and physiology of sharks.  They are abundant, hardy, and relatively easy to catch and handle.  What we learn about them can tell us how to protect them and how we can best enjoy their company in the ocean (for example, when they hang out in La Jolla).  I think of leopard sharks as friendly ambassadors for sharks generally.  When people have the chance to swim or snorkel with them, they can see that sharks are not necessarily scary or dangerous but beautiful and graceful.


Dr. Nosal collects data from a leopard shark before release.

2.) How did you decide to work on this particular issue?

When I started by Ph.D. at Scripps, I did not know what I would study.  I learned about this amazing phenomenon, where every summer hundreds, if not thousands, of leopard sharks gather in waist-deep water at the southern end of La Jolla Shores Beach and wondered…why?  Why do the leopard sharks gather and why at that particular site?  Why not a few hundred feet up the beach?  I discovered no one knew the answers to these questions and decided answering them would be the goal of my dissertation work.

3.) How do you predict the story of leopard sharks will change in the future?

I predict leopard sharks will continue to be a favorite study species for shark scientists, and we will continue to learn more about them and about sharks in general as a result.  I hope people will continue to share the company of leopard sharks in the wild by swimming and snorkeling with them.


Dr. Nosal releases a tagged leopard shark.

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Scripps Institution of Oceanography UC San Diego