Sharks: scary and cool

Posted: Sunday, October 16, 2005

Whether you're a kid or an adult, sharks are cool.

Children and adults gathered around tables in front of the Alaska State Museum on Saturday afternoon to learn about science as volunteers dissected and discussed spiny dogfish, an abundant species of shark in the waters of Southeast Alaska.

Children were also able to learn about art from Ketchikan artist Ray Troll, who gave a drawing lesson in conjunction with the final day of his "Sharkabet" exhibit at the museum. The exhibit ended at 4 p.m. Saturday after being on the road since 2001 at eight museums across the country - from Florida to Alaska.

"They're really getting an equal dose of both here today - an equal dose of art, an equal dose of science. And you know, there really shouldn't be any line between the two," Troll said.

Troll said sharks are cool animals that can attract the attention of kids and adults. He said this event was an easy way to hook children into both subjects.

"Sharks are the stars of the fish world, no matter how you slice it," he said. "It's kind of hard to get excited about a guppy, you know. It's easier to get excited about a shark."

The day was made possible through a grant provided by the Friends of the Alaska State Museum for holding events at the end of exhibits.

"Ray does this terrific thing of combining science and art and humor all in one package that makes learning really exciting," said Lisa Golisek, visitor service coordinator.

Golisek said she was amazed by the knowledge the kids already possess at such a young age.

"I think some of it as growing up here in Southeast, but they know a lot about biology and it's really thrilling to see how excited they get about nature and about science," she said. "The kids that were here definitely are into learning about sciences and that's what I'm hoping they take away from this - the bigger picture of what a great environment we have in Southeast and Alaska."

Seven-year-old Nick Parise said it was "icky and fun" dissecting the dogfish.

"We dissected sharks and we saw like guts and eggs and baby sharks and all kinds of gross stuff," he said.

Cindy Tribuzio, a doctoral student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in Juneau who is studying the general ecology of dogfish in the Gulf of Alaska, provided six sharks for the event.

"It's a great deal of fun to come out and work with the kids and really see how excited they are, because it's something I find exciting," she said. "My biggest hope is that they learn that the animal is valuable and all animals in the ocean have a certain value, whether or not it's to us or other critters out there."

Tribuzio said she hopes the kids will also walk away with a greater understanding and fascination of biology.

"Dogfish are very fascinating," she said. "They're actually very, very old fish. A full-grown dogfish is probably close to 100-years old."

Seven-year-old Morgan Rivest said the event was weird and fun. She said she learned about the reproduction of sharks and that they have poisonous spikes on their fins.

"They're still a little scary," she said.

Her mother, Beth Rivest, said the event was fascinating for all ages.

"It was neat for me as an adult. We're very lucky to have this experience," she said.

Beth Rivest said she thinks it's important for kids to learn about animals at a young age to ensure healthy ecosystems in Alaska and in the world.

"It might not settle in right now, but the exposure to these children will hopefully help them as stewards of the earth later on, no matter if they become city financial managers of funds or if they become outdoor biologists," she said.

Troll said the "Sharkabet" exhibit has probably reached hundreds of thousands of people across the country. He said he hopes they will learn something about the more than 400 species of sharks and 500 species of the closely related rays.

"One of the things I'm really trying to stress with the shark shows is the tremendous diversity of sharks," he said.

The ending of the exhibit will give Troll a case of PSB, or "post show blues," he said.

"It kind of chokes you up thinking it's all behind me, but you know, on to the next thing. But it's really cool. It's a wonderful thing sharing this stuff with people and get into the joy of discovery."

Troll's work will next be featured in a six-year traveling group show titled "Amazon Voyage," which is in production at the Miami Museum of Science and Planetarium.

• Eric Morrison can be reached at

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