Derek Sauer, PhD Candidate, University of Auckland
I received a B.S. in Zoology (2017) as well as a M.S. in Biology (2019) from North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND. My master's thesis focused on telomere length and senescence in an exceptionally long-lived freshwater fish species known as bigmouth buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus).
I have previously worked with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department managing a variety of freshwater fish populations, and I recently had the opportunity to work for the Peregrine Fund in northern Alaska researching prey availability and nest site location of gyrfalcons.
My graduate research at the University of Auckland is focused on directional hearing in sharks. There is substantial ambiguity surrounding directional hearing in fishes, specifically those that lack gas-filled structures for pressure detection such as sharks, skates, and rays. Sound travels much faster and further in water compared to air, making sound reception and localization critical to top predators in marine environments. In hopes of better understanding directional hearing in sharks, we are working to explore the anatomy of hearing structures in a diverse range of shark species in order to quantitatively compare hearing structures between pelagic and benthic shark species. We use MRI to assess digital measurements of inner ear components and fluorescent imaging to determine the number and orientation of hair cells within the inner ear. This information on morphological structure is needed to determine the requisite parameters for sound localization in sharks.