Credit: Kirk Gastroch A blacktip reef shark swims through the Tetiaroa lagoon.

Work at the University of Washington’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences isn’t all trees and wildfires. It’s sharks, too. Yes, sharks.

SEFS associate professor Aaron Wirsing was one of the authors on a first-of-its-kind study, published recently in Nature, that reported the conservation status of reef shark populations worldwide. Unfortunately, the results of the study aren’t the best news, but Wirsing and fellow researchers also see bright spots.

According to the study, reef sharks have become rare in many locations that used to be their primary habitats. However, locations frequented by tourists are the same spots the shark populations are strong.

“At twenty percent of the reefs we surveyed, we didn’t detect any sharks where you would expect to see them,” Wirsing said for a UW College of the Environment story. “That was alarming and a bit of a surprise. But in other places, even those with lots of human activity and tourism, like the Bahamas, sharks are doing relatively well. These locations exemplify the power of effective governance, and it is uplifting to see high performing regions near high human population centers.”

Read the full story from the College of the Environment here.