In February while still teaching in face-to-face mode, we had Shark Day for one lab. Learning objectives were to (1) Become familiar with the diversity of sharks, skates, and rays, (2) identify sharks, skates, and rays to family or species (as appropriate) with a variety of approaches, and (3) identify difficulties in studying sharks, skates, and rays. Our museum collection of sharks, skates, and rays is very limited. Consequently we reviewed the Shark Pulse website, presented by Francesco Ferretti, and identified sharks, skates, and rays from models, specimens, and photographs. In SharkPulse, students could view sharks photographed in all parts of the world. Together, they could work to determine appropriate identities.
|Students enrolled in Ichthyology in spring 2020 during pandemic online teaching.|
After all classes shifted to remote, online instruction we adapted this model for learning freshwater fishes. By the end of the semester, the students identified 45 specimens collected virtually from different drainages of Virginia. Students were provided with photos of fish specimens in hand just as they would observe them immediately after capture. The virtual field trip will be adapted for future labs even if we meet face to face. For example, we can create videos and specimen photos to simulate a field trip to the Caribbean or south Atlantic and struggle to identify sharks and rays (FAO 2016; Florida Museum of Natural History N.D.). While this learning experience is not equivalent to a genuine field trip to these distant locations, the opportunity to travel virtually with a large group of Ichthyology students and provide them this training may be worth it.
A Former Pupil (1874) revealed the methods used by Louis Agassiz. The student was provided a wet, smelly fish in a tin pan. "Take this fish," said Agassiz, "and look at it; we call it a haemulon; by and by I will ask what you have seen." Agassiz would then leave and return hours later. But Agassiz would say very little except “look at your fish!” Rather than quit, the student would really concentrate and take his time in observing the fish. Each stage of the process of looking at the fish forced him to concentrate and focus more and see connections.
A Former Pupil. 1874. In the laboratory with Agassiz. Every Saturday: A Journal of Choice Reading (April 4, 1874).
FAO. 2016. Identification guide to common sharks and rays of the Caribbean. By Ramón Bonfil. FishFinder Programme. Rome, Italy.
Fernandes, M., J. Wammes, and M. Meade 2018. The surprisingly powerful influence of drawing on memory. Current Directions in Psychological Science 27(5):302-308.
Florida Museum of Natural History. N.D. Field Key to Sharks Encountered in the U.S. Atlantic Bottom Longline Shark Fishery and Recreational Anglers. Website
Accessed 20 May 20, 2020