“Fascinating” Sharks Inspire Biology Student Fluellen
By Dan Silvia
Swimming with sharks – is there anything scarier?
It’s old hat for Taylor Fluellen, a Bellevue University biology student, who completed a two-month research program at the Bimini Shark Lab this past fall. The lab is part of the Bimini Biological Field Station, located on the island of South Bimini, Bahamas.
Even with that experience, Fluellen did have one encounter that made her heart skip a beat or two. She was out on a cloudy September day catching stingrays when a dorsal fin broke the water’s surface. Comfortable in the relative safety of her small boat, she was excited to see what she thought was a lemon shark. It was a tiger shark, a fish with a much more dangerous reputation than its more docile cousin, the lemon.
“We followed it for a bit, but then lost it and decided to go back to catching stingrays,” she said. “Later, I’m just sitting there in the cold water. It’s cloudy and it’s all very quiet. It felt just like one of those shark movies.”
“I saw just about everything I wanted to see in terms of ocean life. My favorite thing to do was trawling. You drive really fast in a boat with a casting line out. Hopefully, you catch some fish. I’ve fished before, but only in a pond. It was deep sea fishing. It was just so much fun.”
A 2011 graduate of Bellevue East High School, Fluellen first became interested in sharks and other ocean creatures while watching “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel as a kid.
“It was always a fascination. When I was 7, I wanted to be a trainer at Sea World -- it's always been ocean-related,” Fluellen said. “Sharks happened a little later, but they're an all-consuming passion now. I love them. I think they're fascinating.”
The daughter of a retired Navy veteran, Fluellen felt studying at her local school was the way to go after experiencing the moves typical of a military career.
“I knew I wanted to stay local for school. I just wanted a few more years with my family,” she said of her decision to attend Bellevue University. “It’s been super convenient. I can see the ASB (Administrative Services Building) from my bedroom window.”
Fluellen was on campus before the science labs were remodeled in the fall of 2016 and even had a hand in some early prep work for the redesign.
“I actually witnessed the whole process. We helped clean out the old labs. I got to keep some old posters which was kind of cool,” she said. “The new labs are beautiful. It’s like walking into the Starship Enterprise.”
Fluellen is closing fast on completing her degree. Following graduation she has her sights set on a return to the ocean.
“I would love to work in Bimini again if there is an opening,” she said. “I’m looking at other organizations, zoos, and aquariums. There’s a lot of options.”