Archive for the ‘sharks’ tag

From Tide-pooling to Shark Diving, Citizen Science with Ocean Sanctuaries

By October 5th, 2017 at 11:57 am | Comment

Tiffany Poon dives with sharks. In fact, it’s one the biggest highlights of her diving year.

“As soon as the first one appears, usually in spring, I’ll be at La Jolla Cove spending as much time as possible with them,” Poon says. “Sometimes they’re shy and keep their distance, but often they’ll come by close enough for a nice photograph, and every now and then come in close to eyeball me with my strange camera.”

Poon is a citizen scientist for Ocean Sanctuaries, a nonprofit dedicated to researching and protecting sharks and other marine species. Read the rest of this entry »

Shark Week: A feeding frenzy for citizen scientists!

By July 21st, 2017 at 12:22 pm | Comment

Sink your teeth into these projects!

Photo: Shark Count

The Discovery Channel kicks off Shark Week in three days, when we’ll will find out if Michael Phelps is faster than a shark! Not quite up for racing a shark yourself? You can still celebrate Shark Week by getting involved in one of the many citizen science projects that study and protect sharks. Below, we’ve highlighted five projects we think you’ll love. In some cases, you can even participate from the comfort of home. Find more projects and events on SciStarter, to do now or bookmark for later. Remember to update your profile before August 15th to unlock access to a special prize!

Cheers!
The SciStarter Team

eShark
eShark
Calling all divers and snorkelers! You have valuable information to share because you can census areas that fishers can’t. Help track how shark and ray populations have changed.
Location: Global

SharkBase
SharkBase
Even if you’ve never seen a shark in the wild, you can still contribute to SharkBase by submitting sightings that you see in the news or on the internet. Your observations will help track sharks’ global population changes.
Location: Global. Online.

New England Basking Shark and Ocean Sunfish Project
Help monitor basking shark and ocean sunfish in New England waters by sending in your photos from the seas!
Location: New England, USA

Credit_ Kelli Shaw
Sevengill Shark Identification 
Scuba divers are needed to help monitor sevengill sharks as they return each year to San Diego, CA and South Africa. Share your photos which will be analyzed online, using a pattern recognition system.
Location: San Diego, CA; South Africa 

ELMO South African Elasmobranch Monitoring
Collect data on South African sharks, skates, rays and chimaera sightings as well as their eggcases along the South African coastline. Whether you are a snorkeler, diver, swimmer, skipper, angler or a beachwalker, you can assist by reporting your sighting or reports you’ve seen in the news.
Location: Mozambique Republic, South Africa

Discover more summertime citizen on the SciStarter Calendar. Needed: 1,000 skilled photographers to help create the Eclipse MegaMovie on August 21Want more citizen science? Check out SciStarter’s Project Finder! With 1100+ citizen science projects spanning every field of research, task and age group, there’s something for everyone!

Shark Week with a twist of citizen science!

By July 8th, 2015 at 7:00 am | Comment

Image: NOAA

Image: NOAA

It’s Shark Week! Do you know researchers need your help to learn more about these fascinating, underwater creatures?

Below, you’ll find five projects to help us learn more about sharks and what we can do to protect them.

Join us today at 2:00 PM ET for the next #CitSciChat, a Twitter discussion about citizen science, moderated by @CoopSciScooand sponsored by SciStarter.  Chat with project owners and researchers studying sharks!

Check out the SciStarter blog for updates on your favorite projects and find new projects in our Project Finder!

Read the rest of this entry »

How Are Cows and Purses Related to Sharks?

By August 17th, 2014 at 10:49 am | Comment

Look back at two shark citizen science projects featured on the SciStarter blog.

Want to learn about and protect sharks? We’ve got you covered!

 

Broadnose sevengill shark (Notorynchus cepedianus) in False Bay

Broadnose sevengill shark (Notorynchus cepedianus) in False Bay

Sharks often get a bad rap; they’re featured in the media as dangerous killers that prey upon helpless human beings and animals.  Although shark attacks occur, they are rare; and attempts to decrease the shark population to prevent attacks leads the ocean ecosystem down a dangerous path, because sharks are important members of the aquatic food chain.  Through education, observation in their natural habitat, and participation in citizen science projects dedicated to sharks, we can learn about and protect these misunderstood animals.  In that light, we featured two shark citizen science projects last year that deserve another read.

For some strange reason, some ocean animals have bovine names.  For example, there are sea cows (or manatees).  But did you know there are a family of sharks known as cow sharks?  The sevengill shark is one example of a cow shark, and Dr. Ashley Rose Kelly wrote about the Sevengill Shark Tracking Project, which was developed to monitor the rise of these particular cow sharks near San Diego.  You can find her blog post here.

In the aquatic world, a mermaid’s purse is not a fancy accessory; rather, it’s an egg case, or a case that surrounds the fertilized eggs of sharks and other fish.  Dr. Melinda T. Hough featured Shark Trust, a project that identifies and catalogs mermaid’s purses with the intention of protecting marine nurseries.  Read about the project here.

Image: Derekkeats, Wikimedia Commons.


About the Authors:

Dr. Ashley Rose Kelly is Assistant Professor of Communication,Networks, and Innovation at Purdue University. Kelly’s work is in the areas of science studies and science communication. You can find Ashley on Twitter as @ashleyrkelly

Dr. Melinda T. Hough is a freelance science advocate and communicator dedicated to sharing the inspiring stories of life science and helping the general public explore their world. She holds a PhD from the University of Edinburgh for research into how antibiotics kill bacteria, was a policy fellow at the National Academy of Sciences, and is a published photographer. Naturally curious, it is hard to tear Melinda away from science. Not content to stay in one place for very long, she might be found exploring, often behind the lens of her Nikon D80, plotting her next epic adventure, or training for the next half marathon.

Rae Moore is the Managing Editor of the SciStarter and PLOS blogs. She studied Bioinorganic Chemistry as a graduate student at McGill University, and is currently the Undergraduate Chemistry Lab Coordinator at Harvard University.

More Gills or Eyes? The Purported Increase of Sevengill Shark Populations off the Coast of San Diego

By August 4th, 2013 at 9:44 am | Comment

Shaw2520Sevengill

Emerging technologies have a profound effect on how citizen scientists conduct their work. An underwater creature of ancient lineage helps to tell this modern story of technology’s importance to citizen science. Notorynchus cepedianus, the sevengill shark, of the ancient Hexanchidae family (cow sharks), features seven gill slits and a single dorsal fin, giving a prehistoric visage to this predator. Despite its uncanny appearance, this shark is one that has demonstrated little aggression toward humans, with fewer than five wild attacks accounted for since the 16th century.

In fact, divers have been increasingly encountering these creatures off the coast of San Diego. Harmless as these encounters are, they are spectacular and haunting, as Michael Bear, founder of the Sevengill Shark Tracking Project, would tell you. In the summer of 2009 he experienced the sevengill himself, after hearing rumors of its increased presence in the San Diego coastal area, when a giant seven-foot long (2.1 meters) sevengill glided between him and a dive-buddy. Describing that moment, Bear says that, “it is a humbling experience being in the presence of one of these large, apex predators­­––they have a grace and a majesty about them that is unforgettable.” But are these encounters an indicator of increasing sevengill populations or a product of increased numbers of divers––or perhaps divers with attentive eyes?

For many years few sightings were reported, but more anecdotal reports began to trickle in, and, Bear tells us, the “period that we really began hearing a significant increase in reports was 2009-2010.” Bear wanted to know more (and for good reason). The sevengill is a high-order or apex marine predator and therefore may be important to ecological structure, interactions, and ecosystem management (Williams et al., 2011 and 2012). In 2010 Bear’s project began to take shape.

The Sevengill Shark Tracking Project is a citizen science effort to collect baseline population data on the sevengill. Though it started out small, the project has grown, partnering with the Shark Observation Network. Now a single global database aggregates data on sightings to help determine baseline population information. Though a study of this kind can take many years, Bear’s project already has important insights for citizen science projects, especially in the use of new technologies.

Bear has developed the Sevengill Shark Tracking project’s smartphone app, called “Shark Observers.” It’s available for Android devices and allows divers to log sightings once they’ve surfaced and, presumably, dried off. While this particularly benefits sevengill tracking, the application actually allows users to submit logs for any kind of shark encounter to the Shark Observation Network database. This application can be downloaded through Google Play.

In addition to the app and database cataloguing the date, time, water temperature, and sightings––with separate databases for photographic and video recordings—the project has also started to use pattern recognition technology to identify individual sharks. This is an inexpensive alternative to costly and labor-intensive shark tagging.

With the I3S pattern recognition algorithm, which is also used for mapping star patterns on Whale Sharks, the sevengill project uses collected high definition photos to track individual sharks by their “freckling” pattern. Using the algorithm, Bear is able to identify the unique patterning on individual sevengill sharks. Eight individuals have been identified and tracked using this method, allowing Bear and other researchers to track the return of these sharks each year. What is crucial for this approach, Bear tells us, “is to have high resolution photographs where the freckling pattern is visible.” While crucial, this technological demand is not a significant barrier for most of the diver-citizen scientists, says Bear, since “most divers these days are using hi def cameras anyway.”

Since the motivation for Bear’s project was to determine baseline populations, knowing more about the number of sharks that are present and returning to the area becomes crucial. Tracking individuals helps to sort out the matter of whether the population of sharks or the population of divers (and therefore reported sightings) is increasing. Securing more data is essential to draw reasonable conclusions about these populations and so the Sevengill Shark Sightings project continues to collect sightings, including those with video and photographic data, submitted by divers in the San Diego area. Specifically, Bear’s project is interested in the population data over a 5- to 10-year period, asking whether the population density appears to stay relatively static or if there are notable changes.

In addition to these research interests, science education is built into this citizen science model. Bear hopes to train local divers in identification techniques for the sevengill shark. The Sevengill Shark Sighting project provides an interesting example of how technology can help citizen scientist organize anecdotal data into important scientific datasets.

Ashley Rose Kelly is a Ph.D. candidate in the Communication, Rhetoric, & Digital Media program at North Carolina State University. Ashley studies how emerging technologies may be changing science communication. She also teaches scientific and technical writing courses as well as an introductory course on science, technology, and society. You can find Ashley on Twitter as: @ashleyrkelly
Notes:

(1) Michael Bear is Science Diving Editor for California Diver Magazine and Contributor to Marine Science Today. He lives and works in San Diego, California.

References

Williams, GD, Andrews, KS, Farrer, DA, Bargmann, GG, and Levin, PS. (2011). Occurrence and biological characteristics of broadnose sevengill sharks (Notorynchus cepedianus) in Pacific Northwest coastal estuaries. Environmental Biology of Fishes 91: 379–388. doi: 10.1007/s10641-011-9797-z.

Williams GD, Andrews KS, Katz SL, Moser ML, Tolimieri N, Farrer DA, Levin PS. (2012).
Scale and pattern of broadnose sevengill shark Notorynchus cepedianus movement in
estuarine embayments. Journal of Fish Biology 80(5): 1380–1400. doi:
10.1111/j.1095-8649.2011.03179.x

Photo: Michael Bear; photo credit Kelli Shaw, 2011.