Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Day With The Dogfish Shark

By Phoebe Finn, communications intern

I spent a lot of time with the sharks during my day of volunteering at Save The Bay’s Exploration Center and Aquarium. For some reason, I was drawn to them—how they swam so effortlessly, the way other people approached their tank and they fact that they came right out of Narragansett Bay.

“Do you want to see some sharks?” I would ask the little kids as they walked into the back room of the aquarium. Most of them would freak out, either with excitement or nervousness. I enjoyed watching their faces shift as they ascended the wooden steps and peered into the tank of Smooth and Chain Dogfish sharks.

The Chain dogfish are nocturnal, so they slept in a group on the floor of the tank as the one Smooth Dogfish swam laps above them. Her constant circles around the top of the four-foot circular tank seemed effortless. She would occasionally poke her nose out of the water, and after a few minutes of shark tank duty, I realized that she was saying “hi” to me.

She seemed to like me, and I definitely liked her. I loved being able to teach other curious people about the sharks, and I could even throw in some shark-petting, which really impressed people. I told them that the one swimming shark was a couple of years old and that in a few weeks she would be released back into Narragansett Bay, where she will grow much bigger.

Everyone tried to touch the shark as she swam by them, never stopping her circular laps. The excited little fingers seemed to scare her off as she dove deeper into the tank, but she always came up for my hand. One youngster even stuck around for a half hour, unsuccessfully trying for chance to pet her.

Despite my being an intern at the Save The Bay headquarters in Providence, I felt like a real shark tank expert! People would ask me questions, and I tried to sound knowledgeable, but usually leaned over to a regular Exploration Center docent for the correct answer. All of the employees made my experience, and especially my time with the sharks, so enjoyable. The fun learning environment made it easy for me to jump in and quickly become an expert on all of the native species. I will definitely be going back to the Exploration Center and Aquarium to visit my Dogfish friends and brush up on my marine biology facts!

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