A team of scientists off the coast of Cape Cod has been catching, then tagging great white sharks with wireless transmitters to learn more about their behavior -- and where they go.
A dorsal fin tag attached by OCEARCH uses a satellite to track a shark's position each time it breaks the surface. Other tags include an RFID implant whose ping is picked up whenever the shark passes a special, underwater buoy; an accelerometer, similar to the technology used in an iPhone or Nintendo Wii, that detects up or down movement; and a Pop-off Satellite Archive Tag (PSAT), which acts as a general archive, recording average water depth, temperature and light levels.
"On average, we're collecting 100 data points every second -- 8.5 million data points per day. It's just phenomenal," Whitney said. "Second by second, we can pick up every tail beat and change in posture."
One of the surprises the tracking data revealed is that white sharks don't always stick to cold water, as previously thought. Some even venture into the Gulf of Mexico during the summer.
Each shark's location is represented by an icon on a Google Maps-basedTruEarth 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.