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FAU Shark Researcher Worked With Discovery Channel On A Documentary Airing During Shark Week

Shark nerds, your favorite week of the year is back—and a local professor had a hand in gathering some of the footage.

FAU researcher Stephen Kajiura helped Discovery Channel crews film for "Shark Week," with some scenes slated to air during the weeklong special running June 26 to July 3.

Kajiura studies the migration patterns of blacktip sharks that swim down to South Florida's waters during the winter months and conducts aerial surveys from his research helicopter. Following a flight in late January, footage he captured of thousands of sharks near Palm Beach shorelines went viral and garnered coverage from national media outlets including ABC News, CNN and Reuters

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Turns out, Discovery Channel's team also took interest.

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"They really wanted to talk to us about the blacktip phenomenon because it is so cool," he said. "It's visually compelling. It really makes it apparent to the audience how close these sharks are to the beach."

Kajiura took film crews out on his helicopter in March and spoke to them about the sharks' biology, behavior and the phenomenon of mass migration.

He said national coverage like this puts the spotlight on Florida, drawing attention to the area as a destination for eco-tourism.

"There's a great opportunity for us to capitalize on that … take advantage of this natural phenomenon that's right off our shore and, at the same time, inform people about the value of these fish and the value of this marine ecosystem," he said.

One of the episodes Kajiura took part in, "Sharks vs. Dolphins: Face Off," premieres June 29 at 10 p.m. Discovery Channel's episode description is as follows:

Sharks and dolphins have shared the ocean for ages, but only recently, scientists have begun to understand the true nature of the relationship between these two masters of the sea. It's hostile, and dangerous, mainly for dolphins. Some dolphins bear scars from shark bites, and some are killed or scavenged by sharks after death. This is evidence for scientists who seek to understand the struggles between these powerful predators. Dr. Mike Heithaus and his team bring new research that may solve why sharks attack dolphins far more than we ever knew.

Kajiura said he also worked with Discovery Channel on another episode, though he didn't see it listed in the 2016 lineup. To his knowledge, the episode involved three segments, two focused on sharks in the Bahamas, and the other on the blacktips off South Florida's coast.

The professor also recently worked with National Geographic on a documentary expected to air in the summer or fall of 2017. He said he views opportunities like these as a chance to inform millions of people at a time, rather than only "hundreds of nerdy scientists," about the sea creatures. 

"We have the advantage of a really charismatic animal," he said. "I'm doing this really cool work on sharks, and suddenly people say, 'Wow, that's really interesting. Tell me more.'"

(Image via Facebook/FAU Shark Migration)