New England Aquarium welcomes two respected shark experts to the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life

BOSTON, MASS. (August 17, 2020) – John Chisholm and Harold “Wes” Pratt have joined the New England Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life as adjunct scientists in the Fisheries Science and Emerging Technologies (FSET) Program. The unpaid positions give the researchers a scientific home, logistical support, and allow them to collaborate more closely with the Aquarium’s existing team of shark researchers. Both Chisholm and Pratt are well known for their shark expertise and each have decades of experience in the field.

The new adjuncts join an already dynamic team of PhD scientists and graduate students at the Aquarium who have recently been tapped to provide expert testimony on sharks at the Massachusetts State House and in the United States Senate. Working with collaborators at multiple institutions, the team has active shark research projects throughout New England, the Southeast U.S. from the Carolinas to Texas, and in the Bahamas.

“We are thrilled to welcome such experienced and respected shark scientists to our team,” said Dr. Nick Whitney, chair of the Center’s FSET program. “Both have had long-running ties to the Aquarium and it’s great to formalize our working relationship with them.”

Chisholm spent nearly 30 years working for the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (MDMF) as a conservation assistant, fisheries supervisor, and aquatic biologist with a wide range of responsibilities including work on the Massachusetts shark research program with Dr. Gregory Skomal. Before his time at MDMF, Chisholm worked several years as a commercial fisherman and he also served in the United States Navy Reserve as a Boatswain’s Mate.

Many years ago, Chisholm began consulting with the Aquarium on spiny dogfish research and sand tiger shark collection and has long assisted with species identification of photos sent to the Aquarium by the public and the media.

Pratt is a retired National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientist with a 50-year professional career studying the biology of sharks. Pratt began collaborating with the New England Aquarium in the late 1970’s, collecting measurements and studying feeding habits in two of the Aquarium’s sandbar sharks as part of a larger study on age and growth in this species.

In the early 1990s, Pratt and colleague, Dr. Jeff Carrier (retired from Albion College) began the first systematic study of wild shark courtship and mating behavior, working with nurse sharks in the Dry Tortugas, Florida. Along with his wife, Theo, Pratt has traveled to the Tortugas for 29 consecutive summers and their efforts have revealed previously unknown and unexpected facets of complex behavior in these fascinating animals.

Chisholm is a co-author of numerous reports and guides, as well as multiple peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals including Fisheries Research, Current Biology, and Nature. Pratt is the author of numerous scientific articles on the biology of shortfin makos, white sharks, blue, nurse and sandbar sharks, among others. He is a former president of the American Elasmobranch Society, and his work has been featured in four National Geographic Magazines and many television documentaries.

Chisholm graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth with a Master of Science in Marine Biology, and Pratt graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Fisheries Biology.

MEDIA CONTACT:

Pam Bechtold Snyder, psnyder@neaq.org; 617-686-5068