A wireless ocean-based network developed to track the mysterious journeys of marine animals has just detected its first great white shark, a female measuring about 18 feet long. The network, which is comprised of a self-propelled solar-power robot called a Wave Glider (below), data receivers, fixed buoys and acoustic tags on sharks, is part of Stanford University's Blue Serengeti Initiative designed to observe and better manage ocean ecosystems.
In an email, the initiative's director Barbara Block wrote, "This very brave yellow glider successfully transmitted a detection of its first white shark: White Shark 62141." Block, who is also a professor of marine sciences biology at Stanford University, and her team envision a “wired ocean,” where Wi-Fi hotspots in the form of moored buoys and floating robots detect the movements of marine animals that have been tagged.
Currently, the network is small, just off the California coast near San Francisco, extending between Monterey Bay and Tomales Point. But eventually, Block wants to extend the network down the west coast of North America to monitor the activity of a range of marine animals, from salmon to sharks.
And although the Wi-Fi network is ocean-based, landlubbers can participate in the joy of discovering sharks, too. Block and her colleagues developed an app called SharkNet (right), which is available from iTunes for iPhones and iPads. The app receives data from detection buoys that will be placed in areas where sharks are active. If a shark passes with 1,000 feet of the hot-spot, the buoy will send a notification to the app. Interactive maps also users to click on photos, videos, historical tracking data and 3D interactive models of buoys and Wave Gliders.
The photos show many of the sharks that Block and other marine biologists have tagged over the years, complete with unique markings and fin shapes that the researchers use to identify the animals.
Discovery Channel is proud to be one of the sponsors of this project and will tell the stories of these sharks in the special, “Great White Highway,” which premiers Thurs., Aug. 15. For listings click here.