UNCW shark researcher 'absolutely fascinated about these animals we know so little about'

NEWS NOW: UNCW shark researcher 'absolutely fascinated about these animals we know so little about'

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - While most people can trace their fear of sharks to watching the movie Jaws, UNCW assistant professor Kara Yopak has a much different take on the movie and sharks.

"My mom has this joke that about me as a kid that most people saw the movie and would run out of the water, and I would run in," Yopak said during an interview on News Now on Wednesday. "I was absolutely fascinated about these animals we know so little about."

But Yopak knows more about sharks than most people. In her lab, the brains of different species of sharks are studied.

"I think there is this very common misconception that sharks are these pre-programmed small brained eating machines," Yopak said. "But there is a lot of work done by our lab and several of our collaborators and we've shown that in some instances sharks actually have brain weight to body weight ratios that are comparable to birds and mammals."

Movies like Jaws and sensationalized stories about sharks have added to the public's fear.

"There is something so frightening about what we know or can't see," Yopak said. "There is very little about that movie that is actually accurate or could actually happen."

Yopak pointed to education as the key to lessening the stigma of sharks.

"We can temper fear when we understand more about their important role in the ecosystem," she said.

WECT anchor Bill Murray's full interview with Yopak can be seen at the top of this story.

Copyright 2018 WECT. All rights reserved.