Jaws, too: Fans pack open house for Cal State Long Beach’s Shark Lab
Dozens of science lovers and curious locals crowded the halls of the Cal State Long Beach science building at an open house of the university’s Shark Lab on Saturday, July 21.
In anticipation of Shark Week’s kickoff on Sunday, July 22, the globally-recognized Shark Lab opened its doors to attendees of all ages at its second annual “Sharks @ the Beach.” From 1 to 5 p.m., guests toured the science halls, getting a glimpse at the Shark Lab’s 10,000-gallon outdoor tank home to marine life, in addition to interactive exhibits at other areas of the science departments.
Attendees were greeted to the event with shark jaws, science activities and a couple of shark mascots.
“Shark Week, while there is information and education there, it’s kind of masked by a lot of drama,” Shark Lab director Chris Lowe said. “Which makes it hard to get people to not fear (sharks), but often they are sensationalizing that part of sharks. So our goal is to get good science information out that people then can make their own decisions and hopefully demystify sharks.”
Lowe said the most exciting part of the event is seeing children get involved with science.
“They’re the ones who we need to get excited in science,” Lowe said. “We need to keep them excited in science and this is a great way to do it.”
Cal State Long Beach alumni Rick Bengco came with his wife, also alumni, and their two sons. Bengco said he enjoyed the open house because he got to show his children where their parents went to college, and also for them to interact with the exhibits.
“Once we got here, (my kid’s) eyes were wide open, they got their shark hats and I think they’re ready to see all of the other events,” Bengco said.
Cameron Bengco, 7, said his favorite part about the event was making a shark hat. Although excited to see the sharks, he admitted hesitation of getting near some of the tanks out of fear of “swimming” with the sharks.
The open house comes on the heels of the $3.75 million state funding to the Shark Lab for high-tech research that passed the Legislature last month. Lowe said the open house gave an opportunity to tell the community what his team will be doing with the boost in funds.
Students of the Shark Lab answered questions by attendees of how the team researches and tags the baby sharks that have been spotted in local waters, from the South Bay, Long Beach to San Clemente.
But that’s not all the Shark Lab researches.
Lorena Silva, an international student from Peru earning her master’s in biology at Cal State Long Beach, studies round stingrays. The most common specie of stingray found in the region’s local beaches, Silva said her main goal is to teach people that they are not evil because they defend themselves.
“We think that probably the increase of the number of round stingrays is because of the few predators that the species has,” she said next to a tank housing six stingrays. “Actually, we think that the only predator may be the juvenile white sharks because we have found stings in their teeth. Also, there are no fisheries for the round stingrays.”
In addition to marine life, this year’s event included the Museum Collections of Mammals, Birds, and Reptiles, where attendees got to touch some of the displays. The furs, skulls and skeletons came from a variety of animals, ranging from a polar bear to an armadillo. In the exhibit room, associate professor of Biology Ted Stankowich manned a robotic coyote dubbed “Obi Wan coyote” that he uses for research on the coyote population.
If you missed the open house, learn more about the Shark Lab at Cal State Long Beach, go to www.csulb.edu/shark-lab.