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Down and dirty for Discovery

BY LÉO CHARBONNEAU | SEP 08 2008

It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it. Actually, University of Windsor professor Aaron Fisk doesn’t think his job is really all that dirty, even though it was showcased on a recent episode of the Discovery Channel’s much watched Dirty Jobs show.

The program features jobs that have particularly unpleasant aspects which the program’s popular host, Mike Rowe, is usually only too willing to try his hand at. The episode with Dr. Fisk, which aired at the end of July, showed the professor and his team conducting research on Greenland sharks in sub-zero temperatures off the coast of Nunavut. The show was part of a shark-themed week on the Discovery Channel, which is broadcast to 340 million subscribers worldwide, including in Canada.

The show was taped in April while Dr. Fisk was in the Arctic for an International Polar Year-funded project. A professor at the university’s Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, Dr. Fisk studies aquatic food webs or, as he puts it, “what’s eating what.” Because of this, many of the Greenland sharks his team captures are killed and opened up to examine their stomach contents. Mr. Rowe, the show host, enthusiastically took part in one of these examinations while the cameras rolled.

“Mike is as genuine and funny in real life as he is on the show. I was very impressed with his knowledge of science and sharks,” says Dr. Fisk.

The Windsor professor has taken part in the filming of documentaries before but says this was a completely different experience. Documentaries are usually tightly scripted and “all very serious” while the crew for the Dirty Jobs show pretty much “flew by the seat of their pants,” he says. “The two days we were with them on the ice was a riot, one of the more fun things I’ve ever done.”

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