Born in Jackson, Michigan, Nick Whitney grew up knowing one thing about sharks: they eat you. After spending a lot of time sunbathing and bird-watching (instead of going into the water) on family vacations, Nick finally started reading about sharks to learn if there was a way to enjoy the water without becoming a meal.
By the time he graduated high school, Nick was a shark nut and an aspiring marine biologist. This made Albion College (Albion, Michigan) an obvious choice. As an undergraduate at Albion, Nick worked with Dr. Jeffrey Carrier and Wes Pratt studying nurse sharks in the Florida Keys. Here, Nick learned the basics of shark field research, as well as the detrimental effects that saltwater exposure can have on electronics and human skin.
After graduating from Albion in 2000, Nick pursued his master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he learned that sharks actually can be dangerous if you grab their tails and refuse to let go, or swim directly into their open mouths.
Nick has spent the past several years developing the use of a new tool — accelerometers that can sense sharks’ fine-scale movements, measuring with great precision how they swim, tilt, roll, and dive. It has been a long-kept secret of shark research that, although we can tell where the animals go, we have no idea what they are actually doing when they go there. These tags use the same technology found in your Fitbit or smartphone to answer the “what are they doing” question, and it turns out they are doing some surprising things.
Whitney was the first to deploy accelerometers on wild sharks and has since used the tags on white sharks, sea turtles, Burmese pythons, and several other species. He has published numerous scientific papers, popular magazine articles and shark articles for World Book Encyclopedia Online. He has appeared on the History Channel, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic Channel. He received the “Top Ten in Ten” Young Alumni Award from Albion College in 2010.
Nick is a Senior Scientist with the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at New England Aquarium and is in residence at Newport Aquarium in Newport, Kentucky. He lives in Cincinnati, OH with his wife and three children.
Ph.D. Zoology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI (Major Professor: Dr. Kim Holland)
M.S. Zoology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI (Major Professor: Dr. Kim Holland)
B.S. Biology, Albion College, Albion, MI (Advisor: Dr. Jeff Carrier)