My experiences as a White Shark Trust Research Assistant
by Jessica da Silva
I joined Michael Scholl and his research team on the 1st of April 2003. I signed on for a 2-month stay, eager to help Michael conduct his research and eager to learn more about one of the greatest predators this world has ever seen the Great White Shark.
In case anyone is hesitant about taking part in Michaels research, Id like to say dont think about it any longer. This was one of the best experiences of my life. The joy you get from seeing your first white shark is indescribable. And for me, that sensation never went away.
Michael and Tracy couldnt have been better hosts. The accommodations they provide are fabulous, as is Tracys phenomenal cooking. We shared a lot of good times, and many a braai. Without a doubt anyone who takes part in this experience will feel spoiled.
Me and my fellow assistants felt especially spoiled, not only because of the hospitality but because of the work itself. On a slow day we would probably see 5 sharks. It was unbelievable. We even got to see as many as 27 sharks in one day (and those were only the ones we could identify); and to top it off, that same day we witnessed a breach. What more could I have asked for? Closer to the end of my trip, I also got to see some dolphins and whales (Bryder and Southern Rights) right from our balcony.
During my stay, Michael also made it possible for his assistants to go cage diving and take part in shark tagging expeditions with members from Marine Coastal Management (MCM) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). I am so glad Michael gave us the opportunity to take part in this work, especially since these opportunities may not necessarily come up for all groups of assistants.
We were out at sea most days. In fact, we had gone out every day for about 3 weeks straight. But this experience wasnt only all work and no play. Me and my fellow assistants took a great 4 day road trip along the cape, which I highly recommend doing. Michael and Tracy also took us to see some of the sites around Cape Town, which they try to do with all of their assistants.
I cant fully express the type of experience I had because I have so many fond memories. The only thing I can say is to try it out for yourself. You will not be disappointed in the least bit, and youll be amazed at how much youll learn about the Great White Shark. Michael is highly knowledgeable and encourages questions about great whites and his research. Every research assistant experience varies, which is what makes this assistantship so great. Believe me
you wont want to leave.
Since my return home I havent stopped talking about my time in Gansbaai what I saw, what I did, and the people I met. Hopefully Michael will be continuing his research for years to come and Ill get the chance to be his assistant again. I cant thank Michael and Tracy enough for the opportunity they gave me.