Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170;

January 2015 Speaker

Our January speaker will be George Burgess, Coordinator of Museum Operations at the Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida and Director of the Florida Program for Shark Research (FPSR), a member of the National Shark Research Consortium. He also serves as curator of the International Shark Attack File, the long-standing (est. 1958) comprehensive scientific data base that is recognized as the definitive source of information on shark attacks, and the International Sawfish Encounter Database (ISED), which documents all known encounters with these globally endangered species.

Burgess has studied sharks for 40 years. He is active in the field of elasmobranch (sharks and their kin) conservation and is a founding member and Vice Chairman of the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group, the world’s leading shark conservation organization. Burgess has been engaged in the management of U.S. shark fisheries for three decades as a member of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council's Special Shark Scientific and Statistical Committee and the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Smalltooth Sawfish Status Review, Recovery, and Implementation teams; as a participant in the National Marine Fishery Service’s Shark Evaluation workshops; as an advisor to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; and as the leader of the Commercial Shark Fishery Observer Program. The latter research program monitored the U.S. East Coast commercial longline shark fishery from 1994-2004 and still provides baseline data utilized in fishery management.

Burgess is a founding member and a past president of the American Elasmobranch Society, the international scientific society of researchers studying sharks, skates, rays, chimaeras and their kin. He has served on the Board of Governors and several committees of that organization and of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, and as an officer and committee member of several other professional societies. He is a member of 14 such societies, has received approximately 90 grants and contracts, and has produced in excess of 175 scientific publications and reports on a variety of shark and fish subjects. He received his undergraduate education at the University of Rhode Island, did graduate work at the University of North Carolina, and earned his MSc. from the University of Florida. His research interests center on elasmobranch fishery management and conservation, life history, ecology and behavior of nearshore sharks and rays (including sawfishes), the systematics of deep-sea dogfish sharks (he assigned scientific names to the two smallest known species of sharks), and shark attack.

Burgess’ activities with the International Shark Attack File involve investigating shark attacks worldwide and analyzing shark data for trends in shark attacks. Such analyses allow him to advise aquatic users of the dangers involved in marine recreational and professional activities, including ways to reduce shark attack.  He also works with research physicians in documenting the results of medical treatment on attack victims and suggesting preferred modes of treatment to health care professionals. Burgess has served as a consultant on shark attack and feeding behavior to national and regional governments of Brazil, Egypt, Florida (multiple locations), Hawaii, Hong Kong and Mexico (three locations); has served as an expert witness/consultant to the FBI and other parties on a shark attack-related cases; cooperates on dive-related attacks/diver safety with the Divers Alert Network and on beach safety with the U.S. Lifesaving Association; has worked with the Armed Forces Office of Pathology and other state/county medical examiners; and routinely advises municipalities about beach safety as related to sharks.  

Burgess strongly believes that the results of scientific shark studies and educational material should be shared with the public and the media. The Florida Museum of Natural History’s highly-developed and popular web site [] provides a balanced view of shark natural history, management and conservation and has become the most accessed internet source of information on sharks, attracting on average 900,000 "hits" and as many 350,000 unique visitors a month.  The site hosts the home pages of the International Shark Attack File, the National Shark Research Consortium, the International Sawfish Encounter Database, and the Florida Program for Shark Research. It also provides synthetic information on high profile sharks (great white, whale, megamouth, mako, basking, spiny dogfish), biological profiles of about 100 sharks, skates and rays, current shark news, educational programs, reference lists, announcements for meetings and conferences on sharks, and links to other shark sites.

Burgess’ attack, fishery biology, and conservation activities have made him a popular source of information about sharks with the media and he grants more than 300 interviews each year.  During July, August and September of 2001, the so-called “Summer of the Shark,” he responded to 950 media requests for shark-related interviews.  He is a frequent television guest on network morning shows, 24 hour news networks, and the nightly news.  He also is frequently featured in such natural history features prepared for the BBC, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic  as well as radio and print media.  A quick review of web archives reveals presence in recent stories by such news organizations as ABC, AP, BBC, CBC, CBS, CNN, Chicago Tribune, Fox, London Times, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, MSNBC, NBC, New York Times, NPR, Reuters, San Francisco Chronicle, Time, Toronto Star, U.S. News and World Report, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post.

This is an opportunity to listen to one of the premier ichthyology experts in the world.  Come and bring a friend.