With Discovery Channel’s Shark Week underway, we'll be lining up interviews with shark scientists from around the globe over the next few days to give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse at what life is like when every week is shark week!

Image: RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Center

David Shiffman is a Ph.D. student at the University of Miami's RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Center who researches shark biology and conservation, as well as how information related to ocean science and conservation spreads through social media. His research interests include the feeding behaviour and ecology of sharks, as well as shark fisheries management and conservation policy. Find him on Twitter @whysharksmatter.

Any advice for people who are afraid of sharks?

You don't need to be afraid of sharks. More people are killed each year by cows and vending machines. More people are bitten each year by other people in New York City than by sharks in the whole world. 

We obviously see a LOT of shark content on the web – do you have any quick tips for readers on how to separate fact from 'fearmongery' fiction? 

Look for who is providing the information. Is it a peer-reviewed scientific paper? Is it a new report from a respected conservation organisation? Or is it someone who claims to be a "shark expert" but doesn't provide any evidence of expertise? Also, Google the story and see if it is confirmed (or debunked) by any reliable sources. If a story exists only on one news site and you've never heard of that site, that's not a good sign. 

If you could create one supershark hybrid – SyFy channel style – what characteristics from which species would you chose? Why? What would you call your creation?

It would have to incorporate the scariest animal on earth: the goose! Sharkoose? Shoose? Gark?

What is something that readers can do to actually help shark conservation? 

Eat sustainable seafood. Donate money or time to a science lab or conservation organisation. Learn what's going on from reliable sources and tell your friends. 

You've tweeted that your favourite species is the sandbar shark, so we won’t go there – but what has been your favourite species to encounter in the wild? 

Several measurements are taken of the shark (here a nurse shark) during the work-up, a process which takes less than five minutes! Image: RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Center

It's always thrilling to see a hammerhead shark in the wild. They're incredible animals, and are increasingly rare. 

What does a respectful shark encounter entail? For example, if one of our readers wants to get in the water with sharks, can you explain the big no-nos?

Look but don't touch. There's no reason for non-scientists to ever touch a large wild predator. 

Do you think there is hope for the future? Are you optimistic that we will get overfishing under control?

I am cautiously optimistic about the future. People care, and that's always a good sign. And with new technology, it's harder to keep this stuff out of sight and out of mind. 

What’s one common misconception about sharks or shark conservation that you’d like to clarify?

Shark finning is a specific fishing practice. It is not a synonym for killing a shark in any way for any reason. Banning shark finning only restricts how sharks are killed, not how many sharks are killed.

Top header image: A pipe is used to keep water flowing over the shark's gills. RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Center