Georgia Southern University biology professor and researcher Christine Bedore, Ph.D., is helping National Geographic explore the mysteries of shark attacks by sharing her expertise and years of fieldwork as part of the six-part series, “When Sharks Attack 360,” this month.
The series, which kicked off July 3, is part of National Geographic’s SharkFest, which will run all month on National Geographic TV, Disney+ and Nat Geo WILD, with new episodes each night through July 11. All episodes are currently available for streaming on Hulu.
In episodes 3 and 6, Bedore, an assistant professor in the College of Science and Mathematics who conducts research on sensory systems in sharks, discusses how shark senses may lead to bites by sharks on humans. While filming, she marveled at the channel’s cutting-edge VFX lab and its approach to educating viewers.
“Working with National Geographic and the production team on this series was exciting because of the level of experience and creativity of the production team,” she said. “It’s one of the most unique experiences I’ve had filming a documentary so far since it was done in a studio with a green screen, rather than in the field like we typically do. Using the virtual graphics in this series allows us to see these animals from a completely different angle. Although it was challenging to point at a shark that I couldn’t see at the time, we wouldn’t be able to see the detail of the animal at this level filming in the field.”
Sharks are fascinating animals for many reasons, according to Bedore, who has offered her expertise for previous episodes on Nat Geo WILD, The History Channel and BBC.
They’re a species of immense size and diversity, and offer unique behaviors and interactions with other creatures, she noted. Understanding the behavior and physiology of sharks is critical to their survival, as they experience population declines due to overfishing and habitat changes.
“In order to combat these changes and ensure the persistence of sharks in our oceans across the world, we first need to understand why they behave the way that they do,” Bedore said. “This series helps us do exactly that. For example, in episode 3 we discuss whether or not sharks can see in color. As a scientist that studies shark color vision, I’m often approached with the question, ‘who cares if sharks can see color?’ As you’ll see, the ability to see color could help sharks identify prey, predators or other objects.”
In episode 6, Bedore helps viewers understand that visual acuity, or how clear an image is, may be more important than color when we think about why sharks sometimes have negative interactions with humans.
“Being able to discuss my work in these areas through National Geographic’s shark month has been a rewarding experience in helping people understand why these events sometimes happen,” she said. “It’s exciting to study such charismatic animals and have the chance to share your enthusiasm for your research and the sharks with people across the world.”