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About the Shark Lab



The Shark Lab has its own truck dedicated for field operations around Southern California and is capable of towing our research vessels.

shark lab truck


D.R. Nelson - 26’ Parker with twin Yamaha 150 HP outboards.
Primarily used for offshore and work at Catalina Island.
Seriola - 22’ TwinVee hull with twin Yamaha 90 HP outboards.
Primarily used for coastal work.
Mustelus - 18’ Boston Whaler hull with a Yamaha 50 HP.
Primarily used for coastal and bay work.
15’ Aluminum Jon boat with 12v trolling motor and Yamaha 6 HP outboard. Primarily used for freshwater and wetland lagoons.
Urobatis - 18’ Boston Whaler with a Yamaha 40 HP. Primarily used for coastal and bay work.

Ship Access

The Shark Lab has access to the RV Yellowfin run through the CSU Ocean Studies Institute and Southern California Marine Institute. We have used this vessel in the past for offshore projects and multi-day projects around the Channel Islands.

RV Yellowfin


The Shark Lab has a variety of flume and static respirometer that are used to measure the oxygen consumption rates of sharks and other fishes. Our Loligo flume/respirometer is a 90 liter system capable of water speeds up to 1 m/sec.

shark lab student conducting experiment using Loligo flume respirometer

We have four static respirometers (17 l, 11 l, 7 l and 3 l). These systems are integrated with a Presens fiber optic temperature and oxygen probes.

four static respirometers
top view of four static respirometers
respiration trial on a round stingray
a round stingray in static respirometer


We count on 2000 L installed tank and a sea water temperature control system (drop-in coiled sea water chiller 621 watts - Aqualogic, Inc. and a Finnex titanium heater system - Aquatica, Inc.).

Tank in shark lab

Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs)

The Shark Lab has an Oceanserver Iver 3 with Xylem/YSI sonde suite and InnovaSea digital acoustic receiver integrated (named “RV O’Donnell”). The AUV is capable of 3D mapping temperature, depth, chlorophyll, turbidity, salinity, and dissolved oxygen and is pressure rated to 100m. It is also equipped with a InnovaSea digital omni-directional hydrophone and on-board acoustic receiver capable of detecting tagged sharks and fishes while running missions.

Planning AUV mission
AUV loaded into Shark lab truck

The AUV is also equipped with three video cameras (forward facing, downward facing, and aft-facing) capable of recording HD video for up to 2 hrs. The AUV has 8 hr battery life travelling at 2 kts.

Aerial view of AUV in water
Deploying AUV from a boat

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs - Drones)

The Shark Lab has a large and growing UAV fleet with a larger custom-built hexcopter - designed to carry stereo video cameras and other payloads.


We have a DJI Phantom 3 Pro, Phantom 4 Pro, Phantom 4 Pro 2.v, and Phantom 4 Advanced. These are used for shark surveys along the coast.



The Shark Lab is one of the largest acoustic telemetry labs on the west coast. We have over 100 Vemco VR2Ws omni-directional acoustic receivers, a VR4 underwater omni-directional Iridium-linked acoustic receiver, three Vemco Live buoys, 2 VR2C-cabled acoustic receivers, 9 VR2tx receivers, and 3 VR2AR receivers. We have 3 VR100 ship-bourne acoustic receivers with directional and omnidirectional hydrophones and 2 RJE DPR diver-held acoustic receivers.

Vemco omni-directional underwater acoustic receiver (VR2W)
Vemco VR2W (left), Vemco VR2tx (middle), VR2AR (right)
Vemco Live real-time cellular acoustic receiver buoy
Vemco Live system deployed off Long Beach
RJE underwater acoustic receiver
Underwater acoustic receiver


Semi-Wet Lab (HSCI – 116)

The Shark Lab is the only lab space immediately adjacent to the Marine Lab and the semi-enclosed outdoor tank bay. The Shark Lab has 4 work stations for students and worktop space for field research gear preparation and minor dry laboratory research. We have a 500 gal. (closed-system) polyurethane tank (5' diameter) tank in the lab for holding animals for research. There is "on-demand" seawater outlets and compressed air throughout the lab space. There is a separate dry lab space housing lab computers, dissection scope and electronics.

semi wet lab space
polyurethane holding tank

Semi-Enclosed Outside Lab (HSCI – 121a)

The Shark Lab has immediate access to the 1200 sq ft semi-enclosed outdoor tank bay, which has 10,000 gal recirculating system including chillers, protein skimmers, and cartridge filters. We have one 1200 gal (8' diameter), one 900 gal (7' diameter), and two 500 gal (5' diameter) polyurethane tanks for holding gamefishes, sharks, skates and rays. Additional tank space is available for experiments.

semi-enclosed outside lab

Dive Facilities

The Shark Lab has access to the Department of Biological Sciences Dive facility. We have 14 scuba tanks (aluminum and steel) and a new compressor and bank system.

diving equipment

About Dr. Chris Lowe

Dr. Chris Lowe
Professor, Marine Biology
Director of the Shark Lab
California State University, Long Beach

Dr. Chris Lowe is a professor in marine biology and director of the Shark Lab at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), where he and his students work with acoustic and satellite telemetry techniques to study the movement, behavior and physiology of sharks, rays and gamefishes.

Dr. Lowe earned his Bachelor of Arts in marine biology at Barrington College in Rhode Island and a Master of Science degree in biology at CSULB. In 1998, he achieved a doctorate in zoology, studying bioenergetics of juvenile hammerhead sharks, at the University of Hawaii.

In 1998, he returned to CSULB to teach marine biology and oversee the Shark Lab, which was founded in 1966 by Dr. Donald R. Nelson, a pioneer in the development and use of acoustic telemetry to study sharks. It has been Dr. Lowe's goal to maintain the history of innovation Dr. Nelson established. For the last ten years, he and his students have been studying the baby and juvenile white sharks of Southern California and have greatly contributed to the field of knowledge for this enigmatic species. In addition, recent research by Dr. Lowe and his student team has focused on the development of underwater robots for autonomously tracking sharks and gamefishes. He has garnered several academic awards, including CSULB's 2008-2009 Outstanding Professor Award and 2012 Impact in Research Award.

As the climate and the environment continue to change, Dr. Lowe has become adept at speaking to media about how fluctuations in water temperatures and weather patterns have affected ocean life. He has appeared in many articles and on TV and radio broadcasts, including the PBS/BBC special "Big Blue Live", "TODAY", "Al Jazeera America", "CBC News", Newsweek, KNX Radio, the Orange County Register and the Long Beach Press-Telegram, just to name a few.

Dr. Lowe grew up on Martha's Vineyard, where he spent a majority of his youth fishing and diving the waters around Cape Cod. He comes from a long line of New England fishermen and whalers and believes a career focused on the ocean environment was inevitable.


The California State University Long Beach Shark Lab has had a long and rich history in the area of elasmobranch research.

The Shark Lab was established in 1966 when Dr. Donald Nelson joined the faculty at CSULB as part of Marine Biology program. Don's commitment to the study of sensory biology and behavior of sharks was instrumental in furthering our understanding of these animals.

The CSULB Shark Lab, through the direction of Don Nelson produced over 50 scientific publications and trained 21 Masters and 1 Ph.D. student during his 30-year tenure. Many of the research projects conducted by the CSULB Shark Lab ventured to locations like Tahiti, Enewetak Atoll, and Baja, Mexico with funding from the Office of Naval Research and National Geographic Society.

Unfortunately, Don passed away on March 7, 1997 after a long battle with melanoma skin cancer. Dr. Christopher Lowe, one of Don's former Masters students was hired as Don's replacement in 1998. Chris took over the CSULB Shark Lab and keeps the legacy going. We invite you to enjoy a pictorial history of elasmobranch research at the CSULB Shark Lab. For more information about current research at the CSULB Shark Lab check out the Research pages.

Shark Lab at CSULB in 1970. Don Nelson had just joined the faculty and had set up several tanks outside the lab to hold sharks for various projects.
Don Nelson diving down to tag a silky shark at the "Tongue of the Ocean" off the Bahamas in 1970. This was part of the famous acoustic attraction experiments Don and colleagues conducted to quantify the hearing abilities of sharks.
Dick Johnson setting up his experimental room to determine whether horn shark have circadian rhythms (1970).
Shark Lab at CSULB in 1970. Don Nelson had just joined the faculty and had set up several tanks outside the lab to hold sharks for various projects.
Divers (Dick Johnson and Don Nelson) preparing for a dive at Ship Rock off Catalina to observe diel behaviors of horn sharks in the field. The research vessel "Prionace" was built by Don and his students for use in their shark research off Long Beach (1971).
Gray reef sharks circling a hydrophone speaker at Enewetak during acoustic playback experiments (1971).
Dick Johnson towing the Shark Observation Board (SOB) at Enewetak (1970).
Observers would lay on top of the Shark Observation Board (SOB) to safely observe the gray reef sharks being attracted to the hydrophone.
Tim Tricas, part of the Enewetak team, holding open the jaws of a large tiger shark (1976).
Jeff Landsman (1978) holding a pop-up radio/acoustic transmitter for blue sharks.
Blue shark with a pop-up radio/acoustic transmitter at the surface. These were the tags that Jeff used to track blue sharks for his Master's research.
Don Nelson with a scalloped hammerhead shark off El Bajo Seamount, La Paz (1978).
Don Nelson showing off the SOS II – Shark Observation Submersible at Enewetak. The SOS II was designed and built by Don and his students and was used for gray reef shark agonistic display experiments in 1978.
James N. McKibben tracking gray reef sharks at Enewetak in 1978. This research was part of Jim’s Masters research.
Don Nelson and Pete Klimley viewing video tapes of hammerhead schools at a seamount off La Paz. This research was part of Pete's Ph.d. research (1980).
Larry Smith and Jim McKibben running experiments to test chemical repellents on swell sharks at the CSULB Shark Lab in 1981. These experiments were part of Larry's Masters research.
Bob Johnson, Andy Stull and Don Nelson conducting field tests of chemical shark repellents in the Catalina Channel (1983).
Joe Sisneros, Don Nelson, Rodney Fox and Eugenie Clark in the CSULB Shark Lab watching Joe’s experiments on chemical shark repellents (1991). This was filmed for an IMAX film on sharks. Unfortunately, this was one of Don’s last film debuts prior to his death in 1997.
The renovated CSULB Shark Lab under Chris Lowe's management (1999). The legacy of shark research at CSULB carries on with a new generation of researchers.
Chris Lowe with a tagged gray reef shark and acoustic monitor at Bikini Atoll (2000). This trip was for a Discovery Channel live broadcast called "Live from the Shark Cage" with Al Giddings.
Graduate student, Megan Marcotte, conducting her electro repulsion experiments in Hawaii (2000). This research is part of Megan's Master's research.
Undergraduate student, Tiffany Royal, measuring the metabolic rates of round stingrays in the CSULB Shark Lab (2000).
Graduate student, Yannis Papastamatiou, measuring the gastric pH of a juvenile scalloped hammerhead shark in Hawaii (2000). This research is part of Yannis's Masters work.
Chris Lowe, Brad Wetherbee, and Carl Meyer tagging tiger sharks at French Frigate Shoals, Hawaii (2000). This research is funded by National Geographic Society, NMFS, and US Fish and Wildlife.
Brad Wetherbee, Josh Wetherbee, Chris and Gwen Lowe, the shark tagging crew on Midway Island (2001). We were there tagging tiger and Galapagos shark as well as giant trevally.
The entire CSULB Shark Lab out doing a beach seine for round stingrays at Seal Beach.
Greg Hoisington and Marc Hardy measuring and tagging a stingray collected at Seal Beach. Greg (seen at the right) is determining differences in ray distribution near the San Gabriel River outfall.