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Who Needs Shark Week? Cal State Long Beach's Shark Lab Open House Returns This Weekend

Leopard sharks are just one of many sharks you can see at the Shark Lab Open House. (Photo by CSULB Shark Lab via Facebook)
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Back by popular demand, the Shark Lab at Cal State University, Long Beach is opening its doors to the public Saturday afternoon.

Visitors can get an up-close look at all kinds of sharks the lab studies, not to mention the high-tech equipment researchers develop to observe sharks in our coastal waters. They can even meet and talk to the people who swim with sharks for a living -- or for their grade.

This is CSULB's second year hosting an open house for some of its science laboratories. Last year's event was a smash hit, which may be partially because there aren't many colleges where you can find sharks on campus.

You can get an up-close look at leopard sharks, horn sharks, swell sharks and gray smoothhound sharks at the lab. And if sharks aren't your jam, different species of rays are also gliding around.

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Just don't expect to pet the sharks. Unlike many aquariums, touching the marine life is a big no-no here.

"We take very good care of our sharks," said Shark Lab director Chris Lowe. "We try to minimize contact with them so that they're healthy."

Shark Lab director Chris Lowe loves answering questions about sharks and the high tech gadgets they use to study them local waters. (Courtesy of the Shark Lab)

As environmental recovery efforts bring marine life back to our beaches, Southern Californians are going to have to learn to share the coast with sharks, rays, and other wildlife. Even the Great White is making a comeback. But Lowe says there's no reason to dislike sharks. He advocates that the best way to stay safe in the water and to protect our marine life is to educate the public.

The Shark Lab is famous for developing innovative technology to learn about sharks in their natural habitat. Some of their cutting-edge equipment will also be on site, including drones and underwater cameras.

One of these fancy devices uses acoustic telemetry. Since sound travels so well through water, scientists have fixed little transmitters to some sharks, then track them through the signal their transmitters put out, "sort of like spy technology," Lowe explained.

You can also see gadgets used to follow sharks on boats, or the underwater robots put to work below the waves. "You probably see these things on Shark Week," said Lowe but if you visit the lab, "you'll learn how it works and that's the cool part."

It's not just marine life getting some special love on Saturday. CSULB's Mammal Lab wills also be open and displaying animal skeletons and skins. The open house also includes exhibits on birds and how scientists handle oil spills. There's even a mathematics lab.

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Lowe said he loves hosting the open house in part because of all the great questions he gets from the public.

"We get a lot of really interesting questions and sometimes those questions actually change the way we do science," he said. "And I bet much of the public may not know that they may ask a question that may be so insightful that we go, 'Wow, we've got to look into that.'"

The Shark Lab will be open to the public Saturday, July 21 from 1 to 5 p.m.

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