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Meet John Carlson, Research Fishery Biologist

July 15, 2021

As part of the Faces of the Southeast Fisheries Science Center series, we spoke with Dr. John Carlson who works to provide data and analysis for shark population assessments and recovery plans.

Dr. John Carlson prepares to release a smalltooth sawfish after collecting valuable biological information needed to inform recovery actions for the species. Handling endangered species, such as smalltooth sawfish, is a permit authorized activity. Dr. John Carlson prepares to release a smalltooth sawfish after collecting valuable biological information needed to inform recovery actions for the species. Handling endangered species, such as smalltooth sawfish, is a permit authorized activity. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.
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John Carlson handling a smalltooth sawfish in Everglades National Park in north Florida Bay. Sawfish are sometimes found in very remote areas where access by boats is not possible. This sawfish was caught using standup paddleboards in the back areas of small islands where the water depths are less than 1 foot.
John Carlson handling a smalltooth sawfish in Everglades National Park in north Florida Bay. Sawfish are sometimes found in very remote areas where access by boats is not possible. This sawfish was caught using standup paddleboards in the back areas of small islands where the water depths are less than 1 foot. Credit: NOAA FIsheries.

Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in Branford, Connecticut.

Where did you go to school and what subject did you get your degree(s) in?

I received my bachelor’s and master’s degree from Southern Connecticut State University and my Ph.D. at the University of Mississippi. All of my degrees are in biology.

How did you come to work at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center?

I started off as a cooperative student while working on my Ph.D. At the time I was finishing my degree, the Southeast Fisheries Science Center was starting to build a shark research team and I was subsequently hired on. Timing sometimes is everything.

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John Carlson restraining a lemon shark prior to tagging with a SPOT (Smart Position and Temperature) Transmitting Tags. These tags provide daily location information as part of a collaborative project to determine movements of sharks throughout the Bahamas and off the U.S. southeast coast.
John Carlson restraining a lemon shark prior to tagging with a SPOT (Smart Position and Temperature) Transmitting Tags. These tags provide daily location information as part of a collaborative project to determine movements of sharks throughout the Bahamas and off the U.S. southeast coast. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

What do you do at the science center?

I focus on biological and analytical work relating to population dynamics and life history of sharks. A major portion of my current research, which I’ve been working on for over the last 10 years, has been directed toward supporting recovery of endangered elasmobranchs—sharks, rays, and skates.

What do you like most about your position?

Its diversity. I work on a host of research questions and issues. I can be in the Bahamas one week satellite tagging oceanic whitetip sharks, to the Everglades examining habitat use of smalltooth sawfish, or free diving and tagging manta rays off Florida. My position also involves analytical work determining abundance trends of sharks, how old sharks live to be, and how often they give birth, and what level sharks are caught and released in commercial fisheries. All of these elements are needed to determine the status of shark populations.

What do you like to do outside of work?

When I’m not working, I enjoy surfing, paddle boarding, tennis, scuba diving, fishing, hunting, and backpacking.

Thanks Dr. Carlson! We have added a few of your recent web stories to provide quick links for us to share more about your work.

View John's Contact Card

 

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Oceanic whitetip shark with John Carlson in the Bahamas.  The Bahamas is one of the few places in the northwest Atlantic Ocean where oceanic whitetip sharks are still commonly encountered.
Oceanic whitetip shark with John Carlson in the Bahamas. The Bahamas is one of the few places in the northwest Atlantic Ocean where oceanic whitetip sharks are still commonly encountered. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

Last updated by Southeast Fisheries Science Center on July 16, 2021