Cape Cod White Shark Predation Study

About Dr. Tom Burns

Dr. Tom Burns is the creator and project leader of the Cape Cod White Shark Predation Study. Dr. Burns has spent 38 years studying sharks through formal and informal coursework and leadership of grant projects in veterinary medicine. He has been diving and photographing sharks for almost 25 years and has experienced hundreds of hours of interactions with the most iconic shark species. While his pursuit of shark encounters has taken him around the world, it is the sharks of New England that have become his focus.

In 2014, Dr. Burns developed the Cape Cod White Shark Predation Study to investigate his premise that white sharks hunt seals differently off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, than in other known areas of pinniped predation, targeting prey in much shallower environments than previously documented. Until now, the North Atlantic white shark was considered extremely elusive and difficult to study. Dr. Burns demonstrated, for the first time, that the predation tactics of the North Atlantic white shark could be studied using spotter aircraft and decoy targets. During the following season, Dr. Burns repetitively documented shallow water predation events, demonstrating that these white sharks hunt seals differently. Dr. Burns has the knowledge, equipment, and operator skills to deliver the unique data attained during the course of this project.

A graduate of the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Burns has been a practicing veterinarian at Veterinary Associates of Cape Cod in South Yarmouth Massachusetts, since 2000. He became the Hospital Director in 2005 and has expanded the practice to three locations. Veterinary Associates of Cape Cod is an award-winning organization recognized nationally as a leader in veterinary medicine and surgery. Prior to his veterinary studies, Dr. Burns attended Boston College, where he graduated Cum Laude in 1994. After graduating from Boston College, Dr. Burns spent a year at the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and Children’s Hospital Pediatric Research Facility.

Based on Cape Cod, Tom and his wife, Whitney, have three children.

Dr. Tom Burns photo