Team Photo (800x600)

Research Team

Michael Rutzen:
Michael Rutzen (1970) is well known as one of the few people in the world who free dive with great white sharks. He started free diving with white sharks since 1998, moving toward documentaries and international conferences a worldwide campaign for an effective conservation plan for white sharks (see Michael’s conservation projects and achievements here).
Thanks to his extensive knowledge on white sharks behaviour he could give substantial field support for all the authorized research project running through the Marine and Coastal Management of South Africa since 1998, helping the researches to take biopsy samples, tag the sharks (for pop-up and acoustic tagging) or to dive in extreme condition to change acoustic tag receivers.
Currently he is the field supervisor of two PhD Project and two Master Project in cooperation with the University of Stellenbosch, guiding and helping the researchers to understand a complex and elitary species such as white sharks thanks to his observations and experience.

Sara Andreotti
Sara Andreotti (1983), following her passion for the sea obtain in 2008 the master in Marine Biology at the Trieste University (Italy), graduated magna cum laude. She started to work on the sea since the age of sixteen, as a naturalistic guide for the Natural Marine Reserve of Miramare (Trieste, Italy) and since 2007 she’s working on white sharks.
The lucky encounter with Michael Rutzen allowed her to work from Shark Diving Unlimited cage diving boat since April 2009, to build, in cooperation with Oceans and Coasts of South Africa, the White Shark Photo Identification Database to study the species population dynamics.
Since February 2011 she is working at her PhD Project “Evolutionary behavioural genetics and population structure of the great white shark Carcharodon carcharias” at Stellenbosch University (Evolutionary Genomics Group) under the supervision of Prof. Conrad A. Matthee. The work includes (1) white sharks photo identification (2) morphometric and population dynamic data collection (3) biopsy samples collection in team with Michael Rutzen and (4) laboratory component for the genetic analyses.

Dr. Craig O’ Connell
Dr. Craig O’Connell earned his Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (2013), he has been studying the effects of electrosensory stimuli (e.g. electropositive metals and permanent magnets) on the feeding and swimming behaviors of several elasmobranch species. With success in preliminary studies, he assessed the efficacy of permanent magnets to deter predatory elasmobranch species away from beach/anti-shark nets. This research includes: (1) extensive field research with relevant sharks species, including the bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas), tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier), great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran) and the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) , (2) the development of a new barrier technology which may be used to replace the detrimental beach/anti-shark nets in South Africa, (3) video analysis techniques to permit the accurate observation of shark behaviour in reference to the barrier, (4) laboratory and field components which aim to determine what or if any biological and/or environmental stimuli impact barrier efficacy, and (5) the establishment of collaborations with the South African and Bahamian Governments, as a means to be permitted to conduct this research within their waters.

Leave a Reply