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Lions of the sea: New exhibit lets visitors touch live sharks and track them on Twitter

New exhibit lets visitors touch live sharks and track them on Twitter

Chris Fischer had a few close calls with what he calls the "lions of the ocean."

The rugged man of the sea who's better known as the host of the ESPN television series Offshore Adventures says that sharks weren't attacking him because he was human. He was almost nipped on a few occasions because the sharks may have been nervous at the unknown presence.

Fischer visited the Houston Museum of Natural Science to celebrate the opening of Shark, an interactive exhibit that educates about the role that these predators have in keeping saline waters healthy and balanced. In collaboration with Ocearch, a nonprofit organization steered by Fischer to study and protect sharks and their environment, the exhibition aims to dive deep into the lives of these puzzling and overly feared animals.

 "If we don't have lots of sharks there won't be fish for our kids to eat in the future."

"Sharks are the balance keepers of the ocean," Fischer tells CultureMap in a video interview. "If we don't have lots of sharks, there won't be fish for our kids to eat in the future."

Although the exhibit hall is set up as a shark cage that includes a three-sided video wall, guests will be immediately fascinated by two water tanks that house whitespotted bamboo sharks and epaulette carpet sharks, two of the smallest species of sharks in the world. Visitors are invited not only to observe these creatures up close, but also to touch them as they swim in their respective 700-gallon open reservoir.

When Ocearch temporarily captures sharks, Fischer and his team of fishermen and scientists attach a digital tracker to the fin. As sharks emerge from the water, a GPS signal pins the location, which is tracked via computer software. The location of the animals can be viewed on a real-time map on display HMNS and online.

"People can ask our scientists all sorts of questions about the whereabouts of the sharks — what they are doing, what's happening to them," Fischer says. "If you upload a picture to Facebook or Tweet it to us, I bug my science team to get the answers and reply right back."

Cool tidbit: Some sharks have their own Twitter handles.

Watch the complete "Up To Speed' video, sponsored by Cadillac, as host Nicole Hickl walks through the exhibition and chats with Fischer and HMNS curator of marine biology Wes Tunnel about this misunderstood beast.

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Shark is on view at the Houston Museum of Natural Science through March 22, 2015. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for seniors and children.

Shark HMNS
Chris Fischer and Nicole Hickl examine the megalodon display at HMNS. Photo by Joel Luks
Shark exhibit HMNS
Ocearch places trackers on shark fins as means to follow their adventures. Courtesy of Ocearch
HMNS Shark Exhibit
An online platform is used to document data and track sharks' movements. Photo by Joel Luks
Shark HMNS
Shark exhibit HMNS
HMNS Shark Exhibit