Vital Heim

Having been born in Davos and grown up in Frutigen in Switzerland, I am used to seeing the snowy summits of the Swiss Alps. Despite growing up in the mountains, however, I have always had a strong interest in sharks and their environment. When I was asked by my kindergarten teacher what I wanted to do when I grow up, I told her that I wanted to study sharks. At the time, many people in Switzerland would have frowned at this, but now, nearly 20 years later, I am sitting in Bimini and the mountain summits have been replaced by dorsal fins cutting through the crystal-clear waters of The Bahamas.

When I finished high school and enrolled at the University of Berne to study for my BSc in biology, I began looking into opportunities to pursue my childhood goal to work academically with sharks. Finding this kind of information in Switzerland is somewhat difficult and can be very frustrating. However, when I read about the Bimini Biological Field Station Foundation, the famous Dr Samuel Gruber and the work being done at the Shark Lab I quickly put together a plan to get where I wanted to be and do what I wanted to do. But it took another 12 months, and one year of following my ‘plan B’ (studying in medical school in Switzerland), before I landed in Bimini in September 2016 to start my one- month stint as a volunteer. The one month quickly became an offered four-month spot, which after two months turned into a position as project leader investigating the impacts of dive tourism and daily provisioning on the great hammerhead sharks in Bimini. I used this project as the thesis for my MSc in animal biology at the University of Basle.

After successfully defending my MSc thesis, I immediately booked the next flight back to Bimini, as I had been accepted as a Principal Investigator at the Shark Lab, starting in July 2018.