Public aquariums should encourage research. The cost-benefits of research activities need to be clearly explained and justified to aquarium management (e.g., improved husbandry practices; improved conservation policies and performance; improved education programs, etc.).
Public aquariums developing institutional research programs should ensure that the following issues have been considered and are clearly established for each project: (1) what will the study accomplish?; (2) why does the study need to be undertaken?; (3) how much will the study cost?; (4) how long will the study take?; (5) who will undertake the study and are they qualified?; (6) is the study duplicating effort elsewhere?; and (7) will the study integrate smoothly with a wider inter-institutional research effort? These issues are particularly important if you wish to attract funding.
Public aquariums should take advantage of their innate resources (i.e., infrastructure, human, etc.) and focus investigations within their area(s) of expertise.
Public aquariums should develop investigations in concert with existing research and conservation efforts currently undertaken by academia.
Public aquariums should encourage the collection and dissemination of data for both rare species and those species targeted by conservation and management programs (e.g., Pristis spp.).
Public aquariums should optimize the value of interns by maintaining a list of valuable projects that can be undertaken during their tenure.
Establish a research specialist group.
Establish an independent academic review committee.
Establish a mechanism for systematically evaluating, selecting, and implementing quality research projects that may be supported and funded by the AZA’s Conservation Endowment Fund, the European Union, etc.
Establish a database of ongoing research projects undertaken by member institutions of the various regional zoological associations—e.g., the AZA, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) (www.eaza.net), the Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria (ARAZPA) (www.arazpa.org.au), etc.
Develop a list of future research priorities oriented toward one or more of the following: (1) improved elasmobranch captive management (e.g., nutrition, water quality, exhibit design, enrichment, etc.); (2) elasmobranch captive breeding programs; (3) in situ or ex situ conservation efforts; (4) recovery of endangered wild elasmobranch populations; and (5) improved education, outreach, and advocacy techniques.
Public aquariums must establish and preserve education as a fundamental aspect of their mission. Public aquariums should identify education priorities related to elasmobranchs and integrate them into their educational program where appropriate.
Public aquariums should be aware of, and contribute toward, existing and developing conservation and management strategies on an international and domestic level (e.g., CITES, IUCN, MAC, etc.). Public aquariums should directly apply and disseminate information about same.
Public aquariums should improve links with other public aquariums, academia, and government agencies, to ensure possession of up-to-the-moment information about all aspects of elasmobranch conservation. Better communication should be sought through attendance at relevant meetings (e.g., the annual meetings of the American Elasmobranch Society (AES) (http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/organizations/aes/aes.htm), the Regional Aquatic Workshop, the European Union of Aquarium Curators (EUAC) (www.euac.org), the European Elasmobranch Association (EEA) (www.eulasmo.org), etc.), participation on list servers (e.g., Elasmo-L), and exchange of peer-reviewed publications, etc.
Public aquariums should be proactive about using the media for education and advocacy purposes.
Public aquariums should promote and support the activities of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group (SSG) (http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/organizations/ssg/ssg.htm) and Shark News, the official organ of the SSG.
Public aquariums should promote and support MAC and discourage hobbyists from acquiring threatened elasmobranchs (or those species that will out-grow exhibits).