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Shark Week bares its teeth July 9-15 at Georgia Southern University Museum
Six days of events include live contact with research ship, STEM, story time and ‘Jaws’
Shark Week
Georgia Southern Museum mascot Gertie the Shark welcomes visitors for Shark Week with a less menacing smile than the megalodon poster. (Courtesy of Georgia Southern Museum)

After a modestly successful debut last year, Shark Week returns to the Georgia Southern Museum with six events over seven days, July 9-15, 2023.

New attractions include live two-way communication with a research vessel operating off the coast of Iceland on Wednesday afternoon, July 12, and a free, open-air screening of a certain famous or infamous shark movie – yes, “Jaws” – to cap the week on Saturday night, July 15. Georgia Southern University’s Center for STEM Education now is also playing a role in the museum’s effort to reel in families for fun events with serious scientific content.

“Last year was our first year and we kept it a little small – we just had a couple of events and a lot of shark signage and information – but this year I really planned a lot of great activities,” said the museum’s Curator of Education Stephanie Lukowski. “Almost every afternoon that we’re open there’s something going on that people can see and do in addition to seeing our shark fossils and exhibits.”

The museum is at 2142 Southern Drive, facing Sweetheart Circle on the Statesboro campus.

Shark Week starts out rather quietly Sunday, July 9, with just the exhibits and added information, during the museum’s regular Sunday hours of operation, 2 p.m.-5 p.m. The museum will be closed, as usual, on Monday. But then it will open, with special events every day, during the regular museum hours of 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, plus special Saturday hours of 5 p.m.-10 p.m. on July 15 only.

Center for STEM

“On Tuesday and Thursday of the week we’ve partnered with the Center for STEM Education – part of the College of Education here on campus – and they’re going to do a variety of shark activities in our classrooms,” Lukowski said. “So they have a shark dissection so you can see inside the shark and how they’re different from other fish. They’ll have shark matching games, all sorts of really fun, interesting shark activities.”

The Center for STEM Education’s “What makes a shark?” presentations and activities are scheduled for 1 p.m.–5 p.m. Tuesday, July 11, and again Thursday, July 13.

Aboard JOIDES Resolution

Wednesday, July 12, will bring a briefer but farther-flung activity, with the museum receiving a livestream presentation and interactive question-and-answer session with scientists aboard the JOIDES Resolution, a 470-foot research ship currently operating in the Atlantic Ocean near Iceland.

“I’m really excited about Wednesday,” Lukowski said. “This isn’t specifically about sharks, but these earth scientists aboard the ship are taking sediment cores from deep in the ocean so we can learn a lot about the earth, how climate has changed over time, plate tectonics and how the earth’s crust moves. Sharks have been on the planet longer than trees, and they’ve weathered a lot of differences in climate, and will hopefully continue to.”

One of the scientists aboard the JOIDES Resolution this summer is Georgia Southern’s own Sarah Friedman, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Geology and Geography Department. Lukowski put in a request to include Friedman in the livestream discussion, but whether that works out depends on scheduling, and she had not heard back as of June 30.

The presentation is expected to include a tour of the ship and explanation of how the core samples are taken and what can be learned from them.

Shark story time

Friday, July 14, at 1 p.m., “Storytime with a Shark,” will return. The book “I Am the Shark” by Joan Holub will again be read, and the museum’s costumed shark mascot, Gertie, will be on hand to meet children.

“That was a fun one last year,” Lukowski said. “I wanted to make sure we had something for all different age groups, and this is something our littlest visitors can appreciate.”

‘Jaws’ on the Circle

Shark Week’s final event, the showing of Steven Spielberg’s 1975 movie “Jaws” at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 15, may appeal to somewhat older youth and adults.

It will also be the only outdoor event, with the movie to be shown on an inflatable screen on Sweetheart Circle. Boro Sno and the Saucy Shrimp will sell food from food trucks, but the movie is free.

Allen Harvey, Ph.D., professor of biology, is scheduled to provide context for the movie with some introductory remarks.

“At the museum we really want to educate people about sharks,” Lukowski said. “They’re our state fossil, sharks are important to our ecosystem today, and they’re really, really interesting, wonderful animals.  So we want to present a scientific, accurate point of view. … Dr. Harvey is going to talk about how this is really more of a monster movie, not an accurate depiction of how sharks actually act, but we can still have fun and appreciate the movie and understand that sharks are not our enemies.

“They’re in the ocean, trying to avoid us for the most part,” she said.

Again, the museum will also open 5-10 p.m. that Saturday. The regular admission charge of $4 per person – but free for Georgia Southern students, museum members and children age 3 and under – will apply then as on all the regular days next week.

Lukowski, who arrived as curator of education two years ago, introduced Shark Week last year, drawing inspiration from the Discovery Channel’s longstanding summer tradition of a featured week of shark programming. 

But the Georgia Southern University Museum regularly exhibits shark fossils in its Hall of Natural History, which highlights the natural past of Georgia’s Coastal Plain. Replica jaws of the megalodon, a giant shark that lived millions of years ago, are available for selfies, and the museum has a large collection of real fossil sharks’ teeth.

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