White shark tracking

Great white shark research project

Tracking great white sharks

Great white sharks swim around a lot. Crazy, right? I was surprised too.

The nature of their movements can be effected by numerous variables. Age, sex, location, size, prey distribution, geography, even personality.

Manual acoustic tracking is a method of ecological research, whereby a tag is deployed to a free swimming animal. These tags don’t work the same as satellite tags, which only transmit data when they come to the surface. These are far smaller, attached with minimal interference to the shark and the data must be recorded manually.

To do this, we follow the shark on a boat equipped with a device which receives data from the tag. We record this data at specific intervals for as long as possible, both at day and night. Doing so allows us to develop a stronger understanding of shark behaviour which can likewise be compared to tracking data from other areas.

Oliver Jewell’s Masters Thesis was based on this very subject. I made the following film way back in 2012.

The video we produced for the research project.

The video we produced for the research project.

As of September 2019, only three of us (myself, Oliver Jewell and Michelle Wcisel) have tracked great white sharks in both Mossel Bay and Gansbaai, South Africa.

Much of the data collected with this technique is to be featured in Alison Towner’s PhD and hopefully, further studies aimed at uncovering the mysteries of these animals’ behaviour.

For those interested in learning how to track great white sharks, the Scientific Internship I helped to develop at Marine Dynamics Academy offers practical training in this very area.