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Want to Track Sharks? There's an App for That
8/28/2012

The solar-powered Wave Glider includes an acoustic receiver that tracks the location of sharks. Information from the tags is transmitted along a network of buoys in areas where sharks are known to congregate and connects to an iPhone/iPad app so users also can follow the sharks, as well as view interactive maps and information about them.   (Source: Stanford University)
The solar-powered Wave Glider includes an acoustic receiver that tracks the location of sharks. Information from the tags is transmitted along a network of buoys in areas where sharks are known to congregate and connects to an iPhone/iPad app so users also can follow the sharks, as well as view interactive maps and information about them.
(Source: Stanford University)

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williamlweaver
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Ubiquitous Location Tracking
williamlweaver   8/28/2012 9:10:20 AM
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Why should the location of 7 Billion Humans be the only thing that is tracked? Let's start tracking all of the planet's organisms. That is of course until the Great Whites file a class action law suit for privacy violations. ...why else would Lawyers be called "sharks"?

Jennifer Campbell
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Re: Ubiquitous Location Tracking
Jennifer Campbell   8/28/2012 10:11:06 AM
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@williamlweaver - based on the world we live in today, you are probably not too far off when you say the great whites will be filing a suit regarding privacy. I'm sure there is an activist group out there who thinks this is just plain wrong/inhumane.

I, however, applaud this effort and hope to see it expanded. We sure could use it up here in Massachusetts.

 

williamlweaver
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Re: Ubiquitous Location Tracking
williamlweaver   8/28/2012 10:47:36 AM
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I'm with you @Jennifer! 
 
I was totally tongue-in-cheek with a dash of devil's advocate. As a sensors guy, I love this story. I'm especially jazzed about the "Bue Serengeti Initiative". It is difficult to make effective policy and manage resources effectively if all you have to base it on is intuition and gut feeling --- hard data is always the answer.  =]


JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Re: Ubiquitous Location Tracking
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   8/31/2012 1:00:00 PM
Boy; I made a similar lampooning comment about the unwarranted cries from Privacy Advocates after a recent article and got called a pacifist!  Glad you're getting some peer-to-peer validation.  I'm with you.

CLMcDade
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shark tracking
CLMcDade   8/28/2012 11:29:08 AM
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Elizabeth,

Nice article. 

The amount of punishment this device will experience out on the open sea will be tremendous.  Did they mention any of the provisions or features they included to help it survive?  For example, how does the craft right itself after being flipped by waves? 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: shark tracking
Ann R. Thryft   8/28/2012 12:44:08 PM
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Clinton, the Wave Glider is an amazing machine. We included it in our Nautical Robots slideshow:
http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=246206&image_number=3
It's won world distance records for unmanned devices, traveling more than 3,200 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean. I think it recently broke that distance record. You can check out its specs here:
http://liquidr.com/technology/wave-glider-specifications/

CLMcDade
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shark tracker
CLMcDade   8/28/2012 1:39:06 PM
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Thanks for the reference links, Ann.  I look forward to watching them.

Obviously this device has proven itself to be extremely durable and robust.  I didn't realize that it had such pedigree. 

Rob Spiegel
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Tracking tagged sharks
Rob Spiegel   8/28/2012 4:41:23 PM
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Nice article, Elizabeth. Since this tracker tracks tagged sharks, is there a good number of sharks that are tagged. Is there in ongoing effort to tag more sharks?

Charles Murray
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Charles Murray   8/28/2012 5:11:33 PM
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I'm curious how anyone places a tracking tag on a great white.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Rob Spiegel   8/29/2012 9:57:49 AM
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Good question, Chuck. I'm also wondering what portion of the great white population is tagged. If it's a small portion, a reading that says there are no sharks in the area won't indicate any real safety.

robatnorcross
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
robatnorcross   8/29/2012 8:50:32 PM
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My guess is that sharks like most things have sex so there is probably a limitless supply of new sharks. Sounds like long term employment for someone. On the other hand if your job is tagging them it's probably like explosive ordnance disposal jobs - there is always openings for new employees.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Rob Spiegel   8/31/2012 5:31:31 PM
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Yes, it does sound like a dangerous job, Robatnorcross. Perhaps this is a job for robots.

mrdon
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
mrdon   9/2/2012 1:42:14 AM
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Hi Rob,

I agree. A tracking dangerous sharks and ocean data collection is a good robotics application because no harm can come to humans. I like the use of solar power to keep the robot functioning while searching for sharks in the ocean. For more information on the wave glide robot, here's a link:

http://liquidr.com/

Great article Elizabeth!

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Rob Spiegel   9/2/2012 11:55:23 AM
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That's an interesting links, Mrdon. Looks like the liquid robot held its own during Isaac better than boats in the Gulf.

Scott Orlosky
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Scott Orlosky   9/3/2012 4:35:11 PM
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In the spirit of being "rationally irrational" it makes sense to develop an application that tracks a fearsome predator of the oceans. (After all, your average human is much more likely to be killed by a bee than a shark). Presumably this same approach could be used to track more benign species, such as certain whales for whom humans would be considered a fearsome ocean predator.  That being said, this is a pretty neat application of technology deployed in a demanding environment.  It's no trivial feat to get this to work reliably.  Looking forward to future developments from this group.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Rob Spiegel   9/3/2012 8:27:00 PM
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I agree Scott. It is a cool application. Of course it will only detect sharks that have been tagged. Yet it will probably lead to further applications.

mrdon
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
mrdon   9/4/2012 3:20:56 AM
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I agree with you and Scott. I hope shark tracking apps will be opened to the Android and Windows 7 smartphone markets so more folks can view the progress of the project in somewhat realtime. I can see this tool being used in biology classes for both K-12 and college levels bringing the discovery of oceanography to the classrooms in an open source, interactive teaching environment.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Ann R. Thryft   9/4/2012 12:29:24 PM
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The Wave Glider is pretty amazing. It's won world distance records for unmanned devices, traveling more than 3,200 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean. You can check out its specs here: http://liquidr.com/technology/wave-glider-specifications/ which is why we included it in our Nautical Robots slideshow: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=246206&image_number=3

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Ann R. Thryft   9/4/2012 12:28:33 PM
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I agree, Rob--great idea about robots, especially since you can't tranquilize a shark according to Chuck's input.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Rob Spiegel   9/4/2012 3:07:47 PM
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Ann, I'll bet this is just the beginning of the use of robots to track wildlife. This could work just as well in tracking bear and mountain lions on land.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Ann R. Thryft   9/5/2012 12:23:11 PM
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Rob, while robots tracking wildlife seems initially like a no-brainer,  on second thought I have some doubts, at least if the robots need to get close to birds and animals. Big animals, like sharks, might just chew them up.
As I pointed out in another discussion thread, artificial critters would probably scare most birds and many smaller animals, at least if they acted like machines. I wonder if the work that went into Survivor Buddy's interface and body language to make it friendlier to humans, as we discussed here
http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=247687&image_number=4
could be applied to the same for wild animals.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Rob Spiegel   9/5/2012 12:27:37 PM
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That's an interesting link, Ann, and an interesting idea. As for robots in the natural world, you're probably right. Making the robots less threatening could be a big step forward.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Ann R. Thryft   9/6/2012 5:09:51 PM
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But if robots are made cute and friendly to not scare smaller critters that won't keep them from being damaged by bigger ones. I don't see how to get around that, since nature isn't exactly a controlled environment.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Rob Spiegel   9/7/2012 12:55:14 PM
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Ann, my guess is that wouldn't be a problem. Critters tend to not to try to prey upon inert objects -- like a dog not taking a child's toy seriously. While the robot could possibly scare a smaller creature, I don't think it would attract a larger creature. Of course, when it comes to young animals that like to play, all bets are off.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Ann R. Thryft   9/7/2012 1:35:27 PM
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Some adult land animals, especially cats large and small, like to play with all sorts of objects. So do dolphins. I see a lot of damage potential out there.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Rob Spiegel   9/10/2012 11:51:00 AM
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Huh. Interesting point, Ann. So the dolphins might play with the floating robots. I wonder how rugged the robots are.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Ann R. Thryft   9/10/2012 12:42:01 PM
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Rob, that's my concern. They are quite rugged, as far as ocean conditions go, but I wonder whether they have been designed with manhandling--shark-handling? dolphin-handling?--in mind.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Rob Spiegel   9/10/2012 2:55:26 PM
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That's funny, Ann. Yet a good point. I'd love to see sea creatures messing with this robot. It might be worth installing a camera on the device to see what it encounters. It could have its own show on Animal Planet. 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Ann R. Thryft   9/11/2012 12:17:18 PM
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Rob, that's a good one--a robot having its own show on Animal Planet. Why not?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Ann R. Thryft   8/29/2012 12:08:49 PM
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At a considerable distance, I'd guess. Wonder if they shoot it with an underwater version of a tranquilizer gun, like the ones used on bears?

Charles Murray
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Charles Murray   8/29/2012 6:23:16 PM
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In my limited watching of Animal Planet, it seems like they say that most sharks need to keep moving to get water across their gills to stay alive. That being the case, if you hit a great white with a tranquilizer gun, will it die? And if you don't hit it with a tranquilizer gun, will it eat you when you try to put a tracking tag on it? If so, it's not worth the effort.

notarboca
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
notarboca   8/31/2012 2:17:32 AM
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I found a link here that details types of tags and their attachment methods.  For acoustic sensors as mentioned in the article, the tag is placed in a smaller bait fish that sharks like and and will readily eat.  Alternativly, they are tagged with a handheld harpoon as detailed in this NOAA guideline for the Northeastern Fishery.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Beth Stackpole   9/4/2012 7:35:47 AM
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@Chuck: Actually we've been seeing how they track and tag sharks first hand in Mass. given the influx of great whites on the Cape and around the Vineyard. Basically it doesn't look that much different than the original Jaws movie--big boats, big fly bridge, big harpoons.

I would love to see a similar app for tracking whales. We regularly take a boat out to the feeding grounds and do whale watching--sometimes, we've been lucky enough to see hundreds, which is exhilarating. Sometimes, we've made the trek and seen nothing. Definitely a cool use of technology.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Rob Spiegel   9/4/2012 10:26:24 AM
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Yes, tracking whales would be a great use of this technology, Beth. And it would probably be a simple matter to make the tracking technology into a smartphone app. The hurdle would be the process of tagging a ga-zillion whales.

By the way, what type of whales do you watch? Orcas?

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Beth Stackpole   9/19/2012 7:10:20 AM
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@Rob: Not brave enough to track Orcas, nor do they habitat where we live. For the last few years, the feeding grounds at Stellwagon and Jeffrey's Ledge off of the Massachusetts shore line have been a treasure trove for seeing humpbacks and finbacks, sometimes sharks and dolphins. We have literally been out there (it's about 25 miles off shore) and see hundreds of flukes cresting (I am not joking). To the point that you almost don't notice any more. The last few years haven't been as active and you have to really seek out where the whales are feeding, hence the need for an app that could take away some of the guess work.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Rob Spiegel   9/19/2012 11:26:52 AM
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That sounds beautiful, Beth, watching the flukes cresting. I didn't know you had to be brave to watch orcas. I spent a week on a sailboat around the San Juan islands a number of years ago. One afternoon a pod of orcas surfaced on both sides of the boat, literally within five feet on either side, about 20 of them. Quite impressive.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Beth Stackpole   9/20/2012 7:36:54 AM
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Now that would be incredible, Rob. Consider yourself very lucky to have witnessed something so intense and so special. Ok, and brave as well!

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Rob Spiegel   9/20/2012 1:58:13 PM
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Well, I was ignorant enough not to think there was anything to cause fear. They swam on both sides of the boat for about half an hour. I guess they thought we were part of their pod. I've never seen anything like it. There were big ones and little ones.

Charles Murray
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
Charles Murray   9/18/2012 7:08:56 PM
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I agree, Beth. Whale trackers could use this. I keep hearing stories of people who get on a commercial whale watching excursion and see not a single whale (I heard one of these tales just last week again). If I'm going to get seasick on a whale watching boat, I want to at least see some whales.

akwaman
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Re: Tracking tagged sharks
akwaman   2/18/2013 2:10:41 PM
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If the International community would take action against whalers and enforce the laws agreed on by the International community, then there would be a lot more whales to see.  Sure, whale cruises where you see no whales.  That has to tell you something.

This is great technology, the tricky part is attaching enough beacons to every shark. A step in the right direction.

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