Interns and volunteers wanted

Sharks And Rays Australia (SARA) is seeking to fill the following positions:

  • One social media intern, to look after our facebook page. You will support our team in science communication. You will help us communicate, our work, what is happening at SARA and news from the world of sharks, rays and above all sawfishes. Start date January 2023.Our social media interns will be responsible for content creation for one of our three platforms (@SharksAndRaysAU on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), thus supporting our existing science and social media team. Content sourcing, and creating content from existing materials will also fall in the intern’s responsibilities. Creation of ads is outside of the scope of this role.
  • One video editor / content creator. You will help us create informative short videos from clips that we have filmed during our work. Start date January 2023.
  • Two research / conservation volunteers. Start date January 2023. As volunteers, you will help us with various research/ conservation related tasks. The tasks you will be helping with depend on your location. For example, if Cairns-based you will be helping us with DNA sampling of saws, shipments of display cases. If based somewhere else, you will help with online data collection of historic sawfish sightings, and data entry from fieldwork.

Our core values and mission:  At SARA we believe that long-term conservation goals can only be achieved if they are based on sound science, public outreach and an inclusive model of implementation, i.e. working with local stakeholders. SARA aims to not just produce science in the ‘ivory tower’ but to involve the general public in our sawfish and shark research expeditions. In many ways, it is ultimately up to local communities to look after the incredible species that share the natural world with us.

Our current work:  At SARA, we like to think outside the box. Our current main study species, sawfish, are the most endangered of all sharks and rays globally, but they are much more than that. These large animals (up to 7m length) are culturally important to many Indigenous groups, and they were once amongst the most abundant large predators in tropical coastal, inshore and freshwater regions of our planet. Sitting somewhere between charismatic and dangerous megafauna, the work done by our principal scientist, collaborators, students, field assistants, interns, and volunteers ensures that these animals don’t quietly go extinct, and will remain a vital part of Northern Australia’s ecosystems.

Our creative, outcome-oriented, and dynamic work environment allows the creation and implementation of real-world conservation concepts that unite people with a common idea and goal.

  • SARA is currently the only Australian organisation that allows paying field assistants to participate in shark and ray research expeditions, and gain hands-on research experience. Field work is led by our scientists and conducted in close collaboration with Aboriginal Land and Sea Rangers, and sometimes with commercial fishers, thus uniting all of us during intensive tagging workups of large animals.
  • Our citizen science project turns members of the public into sawfish spotters by turning old trophy saws into messengers for conservation. Cases inform the public about sawfish biology, possible threats, and safe release methods. Our sawfish display cases and info boards can be seen at 60 locations (and growing) across Queensland.

Our social media interns will be responsible for content creation for one of our three platforms (@SharksAndRaysAU on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), thus supporting our existing science and social media team. Content sourcing, and creating content from existing materials will also fall in the intern’s responsibilities. Creation of ads is outside of the scope of this role.

These positions are unpaid, as we currently do not have funding for them. However, in order to gain understanding of the work that we do, you will very likely be able to join one of our field trips in 2023 for free (details to be worked out individually). Your internship will also result in a letter of recommendation from our Principal Scientist and Director. Additional perks include: SARA merchandise and opportunity to travel to sharky events.

If interested please send a cover letter and CV to attn: Dr Barbara Wueringer. The cover letter should contain the following information:

  • Statement of interest: Why are you interested in this position?
  • Which intern position you are interested in
  • Availability (e.g. one semester, 1 year)
  • Number of hours per week you would like to commit to
  • Where you are based
  • Social media intern only: Your strategy to find info for creating exciting posts. 2-3 sample posts

Please note that where you are based will not affect our decision.

A saw returned

A saw returned

A saw returned

In March 2022 Barbara received a message from a friend. He had found an old sawfish saw in a local op shop in Cairns, and wanted her to know about it. As it turned out the saw was quite special, and the friend ended up donating the saw to SARA for research and education.

When he dropped the saw off, he told Barbara that Lisa Michl, the Artistic Director of UMI Arts in Cairns and a Kokoberrin woman from the Gulf of Carpentaria, and Shaun Edwards, a Kokoberrin artist, had identified the artwork on the saw as being from the Dick Roughsey era from Mornington Island.

Mornington Island is part of the Wellesley Island Group, in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria. The donation of the saw happened at a time when Barbara was in touch with the Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation, which maintains Aboriginal Land and Sea Ranger groups in Normanton, Burketown (Gangalidda Garawa Rangers) and the Wellesley Island rangers on Mornington Island. Barbara forwarded images of the saw and received confirmation that the saw was likely painted by Dick Roughsey or his son.

As the contact was established, Barbara met Thomas Wilson, the senior head ranger of the Wellesley Island Aboriginal Land and Sea rangers from Mornington Island, in Cairns. Thomas was very happy to receive the saw, and said that it would be displayed in the local art centre on Mornington Island. He was also worried about sawfish, as locally on Mornington Island they are hardly ever seen anymore. They used to be quite common until about 20 years ago.

Everyone involved was really happy about the outcome. Thomas Wilson said that there are not many saws around anymore that are painted in this particular traditional style. The saw will be displayed together with an information poster regarding the biology of sawfish.

Barbara would like to thank her friend Hans, for recognising the importance of the saw and donating it, so that it could be returned to where it came form.


Spotters t-shirts

What are sawfish spotters?

Have you noticed some very cool looking people recently, wearing the SARA Sawfish Spotter’s t-shirts?

We are very proud of these t-shirts, which feature a drawing by the amazing Julius Csotonyi. The t-shirt raises awareness for the submission of sawfish sightings (historical and recent) to the SARA sawfish sightings campaign. YOU can submit your sighting here.

If you have received your t-shirt we would love you to tag us on social media @SharksAndRaysAU and use the #sawfishspotters to raise awareness for our sightings campaign and your awesomeness! Thank you for contributing to the conservation of these amazing critters!

Wearing a Sawfish Spotter t-shirt does not give permission to target sawfish in Australia, for sighting submissions or otherwise. Please remember, sawfish are endangered and protected under both state and federal legislations and there are steep fines for targeting these fish without a permit.

This t-shirt campaign is funded by our Queensland Government Office of the Chief Scientist Citizen Science grant, as well las a Save Our Seas Foundation small grant.


The art of Rod Lucas

The art of Rod Lucas

In March 2022, i (Barbara) visited Karumba for a Queensland Fisheries meeting. During a break at the meeting, Rod Lucas popped in! I had never actually met him, but was aware of him and his sawfish art for a long time.

In 2019, I ran a field trip to Karumba, and as part of it we asked locals to allow us to sample their sawfish saws. This was the first time I came across one of Rod’s saw casts. As it was painted, it took us a few minutes to figure out what we were looking at.

Rod’s casts are for sale in the Les Wilson Barramundi Discovery Centre in Karumba. When I visited him there to see some more of his artworks, he had a surprise for me, a cast that he made as a gift for Sharks And Rays Australia. It is absolutely stunning! Check out the rostral teeth, he left them transparent, so that it’s visible that this is not a real sawfish saw.

Rod’s creativity allows this important part of both Indigenous and also North Queensland culture, the display of sawfish saws, to continue into the future, without posing any harm to endangered species.









Link to ABC article on Rod Lucas’ work:

Rod Lucas Gallery

Dr Wueringer from SARA with artist Rod Lucas and the amazing saw he made for SARA.

SawSearch project update

SawSearch project update

By Annmarie Fearing, University of Mississippi

‘SawSearch’ is a collective research effort led by Dr. Nicole Phillips and Annmarie Fearing from the University of Southern Mississippi and Kelcee Smith from Louisiana State University. This project would not be possible without our collaborators from around the world, dedicated volunteers, and funding from Save Our Seas Foundation, Shark Conservation Fund, and The Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation. Thank you for being a part of our ‘SawSearch’ project and supporting our efforts to collect tissue samples from historic sawfish specimens. With your help we have collected over 1,500 tissue samples from all five species of sawfish from over 150 public and private natural history collections. Specimens originate from as far back as the 1600’s and span from origins around the globe such as West Africa (read more here), Nicaragua, Panama, and Bangladesh, among others. As we continue to collect and process these important samples, we wanted to provide you with a brief update.

 Historical Smalltooth Sawfish tissue being digested during DNA extraction. Image by Annmarie Fearing. 


We experienced some setbacks due to COVID-19, but we are now back in the lab hard at work. We have extracted DNA from all Largetooth, Green, and Smalltooth Sawfish tissue samples and are currently sequencing and genotyping the DNA.
Thanks to your participation in this research, we have DNA sequence information from historic sawfish populations that would otherwise not be possible, such as the sequence shown below from a Green Sawfish saw collected from the Arabian Sea in 1961. You can read about our preliminary findings on the genetic diversity in Largetooth Sawfish in our blogs posted on our Save Our Seas Foundation project page.
The ‘SawSearch’ team has shared preliminary data from this research via public talks and scientific conferences. In 2019, Annmarie presented preliminary genetic data for Largetooth Sawfish at the Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists in Utah, USA and Kelcee shared progress on her research on Smalltooth Sawfish at the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) meeting in Illinois, USA. In February 2021, Nicole participated in a public presentation on sawfish for the
Wildlife in the Red program organized by Wessex Museums, which can be viewed here. Additionally, Annmarie will be giving a talk at the 2022 SPNHC meeting in Scotland and may see some of you there.

For the remainder of the year, we will be dedicated to wrapping up the analyses of these data for publications, but we will still be on the search for more saws. We are currently working to gather additional samples from Papua New Guinea and Brazil, which would allow us to address uncertainties regarding the status of sawfish in these locations.

As we continue to collect more samples and expand our research we will be sure and keep you all updated. Thank you again for being a part of ‘SawSearch’!

Featured image caption: DNA sequence (above) from a Green Sawfish saw (below) from a sawfish captured at Masirah Island in the Arabian Sea in 1961.

Annmarie Fearing (left), Nicole Phillips (middle left), Cat Gordon (middle right), and Kelcee Smith (right). Image by Annmarie Fearing.