With the number of shark sightings and shark attacks in the news these days (a Massachusetts man survived a brutal attack off the coast of Cape Cod in July, and five people have been killed by sharks in Australia in the past year), it's only fitting that a team of Stanford University engineers should develop a robot that follows great whites and transmits data about them back to shore.
The Wave Glider, developed and designed by the Stanford engineers and Liquid Robotics, was recently launched into the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco. It's a 7-foot-long yellow surfboard with a boat-like propulsion system, and it's powered using solar energy.
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 shark finder (let's call it what it is), is part of a larger ocean data network comprising fixed buoys serving as wireless hotspots deployed in places where sharks tend to congregate between Monterey Bay and Tomales Bay near San Francisco.
Part of Stanford marine sciences professor Barbara Block’s "Blue Serengeti Initiative," the Wave Glider includes an acoustic receiver that will track sharks fitted with acoustic tags throughout the rest of the summer and into fall to inform Stanford marine researchers about their behavior.
“Our goal is to use revolutionary technology that increases our capacity to observe our oceans and census populations, improve fisheries management models, and monitor animal responses to climate change,” Block said in a press release.
Block hopes to eventually extend this so-called “wired ocean” down the entire west coast of North America and use a fleet of Wave Gliders to track, not only sharks, but other fish and large ocean predators.
iPhone and iPad users also can remotely observe the sharks through a free Shark Net. Block created the app with developers from mobile app development companies EarthNC and Gaia GPS, as well as with developers from the international Census of Marine Life’s Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP) project -- of which Block’s Blue Serengeti is an extension.
The app notifies users when a shark that’s being tracked passes within about 1,000 feet of one of the hotspot buoys, and explores the regions the sharks inhabit through customizable interactive maps. It also includes a media gallery with photos, videos, historical tracking data, and 3D interactive models of the sharks and the region in which they live. The models also include buoys and Wave Gliders, as well as realistic photos of the specific sharks being tracked, including information about the physical markings that make them identifiable to researchers following them.
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.
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.
@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.
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.
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.
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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