Forget Shark Week: Researchers tag n' track great whites

Using four different kinds of tracking technology, OCEARCH finds sharks are often closer to shore than you think

By , Computerworld |  Hardware

A great white named Garmin was tagged by the OCEARCH team, which picked up his signal after two days and got a good location on him on the third day. Starting in late April, wireless data showed him moving away from Guadalupe Island until mid-July, when he arrived north of the Hawaiian Islands. (Image: OCEARCH).

Open-source research

In addition to in-depth data, what sets OCEARCH apart from past shark-tracking projects is that anyone -- from a child in grade school to a television arm-chair warrior -- can see the tracking data at the same time as researchers on the OCEARCH web site.

Each shark's location is represented by an icon on a Google Maps-based TruEarth Viewer. By clicking on the icon, a user can get detailed information such as the species, gender, size, weight, length, as well as where and when the shark was tagged. A user also gets images of the shark as it was being tagged.

By drilling down further, and clicking on the "Where Have I Been" icon, a user can also see a track of where the shark has been since being tagged, in some cases see a detailed trail over the course of a year or more.

OCEARCH expedition leader Chris Fischer calls the methodology "open source" research, since all scientists see the data at the same time; nothing's proprietary. Within a week, OCEARCH also plans to launch a "digital hub" shark tracker platform with a real-time social media interface that allows researchers to post FAQs and videos to the most popular social networks: Facebook, YouTube, Instagram or Twitter, according to OCEARCH spokesman Chris Berger.

OCEARCH will also be launching a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education-based curriculum for K-12 students. "We currently have 30 lesson plans for sixth through eighth graders, and will have more for K-12 -- eventually, even pre-K," Berger said.

Currently, OCEARCH is tracking 47 sharks, some of them bull and mako but mostly great whites off the U.S. East Coast and in the waters off South Africa.

Many of the sharks are given endearing names, such as Princess Fi, Genie, Opera, and Sabrina. Others have handles more befitting ships, such as Poseidon, Redemption, Perseverance and Courage.

Mary Lee, who was tagged off of Cape Cod, is named after Fischer's mother. "My parents have done so much. I was waiting and waiting for a special shark to name after her and this is truly the most historic and legendary fish I have ever been a part of and it set the tone for Cape Cod," Fischer wrote in an online description of Mary Lee.

Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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