Sharks4Kids Webinar | Power of Predators | March 30

I will be presenting a short talk followed by Q&A March 30th, 2020 in Sharks4Kids Webinar series where kids, parents, and anyone else who joins can learn about current shark research and ask shark scientists about their research and career. Or maybe you are just curious what the smallest shark is – that’s a great question too!

If you would like to join any of the webinars, HERE is a link, and HERE is a link specifically for my webinar presentation March 30th 10 AM EST.

Setting out bait (yes that is an entire fish on a foot long hook) for a monitored, drum line shark survey.

Teaser | Groupers, barracudas, and sharks, oh my! Predator species can be found in every ecosystem on land or in the sea. Over the past few decades, ecological research has focused on how important the presence of predators can be for their environment. Not only do predators such as sharks help keep their prey’s population healthy and balanced through consuming individuals, but their mere presence can alter the behavior of other animals around them. In this webinar, I will be speaking about the role of predators in marine ecosystems, from a blue crab crawling in a salt marsh, to a shark cruising over a coral reef.

11′ Smalltooth sawfish in the Marls along Abaco Island, the Bahamas

May 2019 | Super exciting day in the field with Dr. Dean Grubbs, Tonya Wiley, Lukas Heath, and our amazing captains Jody and Richard Albury – cruising the Marls for six hours and right before dinner time, we spot her. A beautiful female smalltooth sawfish, about 11′ and likely still immature; that’s right, a juvenile at 11′!

Sawfishes are considered the most imperiled of all sharks and rays according to the IUCN Shark Specialist Group . Their populations are almost entirely threatened by human impacts including overfishing, by-catch, and removal/degradation of their habitat. Large, marine predator species, like sawfish, are important to protect because they are often top predators in ecosystems, altering communities through consumptive and non-consumptive effects, and because of their large biomass, they are major nutrient providers and transporters within nearshore ecosystems. The only remaining western Atlantic stronghold or “lifeboat” of smalltooth sawfish are in southwest Florida. Recent research by Dr. Grubbs and colleagues suggests that a smaller, viable population or “beacon of hope” may exist in The Bahamas along Andros.

However, there have also been a few sightings in Abaco, but this area has never been survey with specifically seeking sawfish, until now. We observed this 11′ sawfish on our very first survey day. We are still not sure how many sawfish are in the Marls, but hopefully we will be back soon to find out more.

Left to right | Jody, Richard, Tonya, Enie, Dean, and Lukas.

‘Predators and Hidey-Holes Are Good for Reef Fish Populations’

Here are some short press releases on my latest first author paper; here and here (second thesis chapter, done and check).

Conducted along the eastern shoreline of Great Abaco Island, The Bahamas, I used nearshore, patch reef communities to examine the separate and interactive effects of predators and habitat complexity on reef fish community assemblage. We found that predators present and high reef complexity had an additive, positive effect on total fish abundance: fish abundance increased by ~250% and 300%, compared to predators absent and low complexity reef treatments, respectively. Our data suggest that both fisheries management of large-bodied piscivores and reef habitat restoration are critical to the management and conservation of reef ecosystem functions and services.

This photo demonstrates the stark contrast in fish abundance between two reef treatments, no predator presence, low reef complexity (left) and predator presence, high reef complexity (right)

Undergraduate Spotlight

Ms. Haley Gambill has received both the NC State College of Natural Resources Enrichment Fund and the G. T. Barthalmus Undergraduate Research Grant. Congratulations Haley!

Ms. Gambill is conducting her own independent research project this semester investigating how fish aggregation size affects growth of individual white grunts. Collaborating with Dr. Jesse Fischer , we will be using otoliths (fish ear bones) for age and growth anaylsis. More updates on this research coming soon!

Haley Gambill
undergraduate researcher at NC State University
Image of a white grunt otolith mounted in modeling clay to prepare for epoxy submersion to assist in sectioning. Techniques modified by Dr. Jesse Fischer, research assistant professor at NC State University



Welcome to my  new website.

My name is Enie Hensel and I am currently a PhD Candidate at North Carolina State University (link here). I created this website to share my research, teaching, and outreach experiences as well as whatever I am currently diving into and exploring.