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Intersection: Shark Week

Dr. Toby Daly-Engel collecting a skin sample from a white shark in Mexico. Photo courtesy: Discovery Communications

This week is Shark Week on the Discovery Channel and this year Dr. Toby Daly-Engel, assistant professor of ocean engineering and marine sciences at the Florida Institute of Technology, is on it. She says it can be a great avenue to show people the reality of sharks.

"As long as something like Discovery Channel and Shark Week are presenting the reality, ideally as long as they can kind of get as close to the science as possible, I think they're doing a really good thing by informing people," Daly-Engel says.

"The value to the field of marine biology and to sharks themselves is in really letting people know how cool sharks are and how it's normal to be scared of them, but in reality they're such an important part of the ecosystem," Daly-Engel says. "The value is that people hear about sharks. That people hear the reality as opposed to the fiction."

Shark attacks occur, but Daly-Engel says it's not because they intend to eat humans.

"We are not their prey. They did not evolve to eat us and they are long lived, very cautious creatures. Remember, a shark that hasn't eaten for a month is no more likely to attack than a shark that just had a meal because they're so careful," Daly-Engel says.

She says the most shark attacks happen in "Florida, Hawaii and California between the hours of 1 and 3 p.m."

"That's not when sharks are hungry. That's when people are in the water. We think that shark attack is actually just a case of mistaken identity. They didn't evolve to eat us, but we're in their environment and so mistakes will happen," Daly-Engel says.

"The best thing to do is to be calm. You are much more likely to be killed by a vending machine or by a Christmas tree than by a shark."

Daley-Engel was part of a team that reported this month their discovery of a new species of sharks with the use of DNA technology. Her episode on Shark Week airs Friday, July 27.

This interview first aired on Intersection in May 2018.