A population of great white sharks, one of the most feared but poorly understood predators in the ocean, are being tracked off the California coast by marine biologists, using high-tech robots that enable them to reveal the animals’ positions and activities in real time.
The robots are part of a program known as Tagging of Pelagic Predators, or TOPP, according to CBS San Francisco. An international and multidisciplinary collaboration, the project unites marine biologists at Hopkins Marine Station at Stanford University, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the aquarium’s research institute, along with technology out of Silicon Valley that aids in detecting the white sharks’ signals.
At the heart of the program are seafaring robots known as wave gliders. The product of Liquid Robotics, the wave gliders are able to relay data from acoustic tags attached to the great whites by researchers. Powered entirely by solar panels and deriving locomotive energy from wave dynamics, the robots are capable of staying afloat for over a year, according to Liquid Robotics CEO Gary Gysin.
— Eric D. Schabell (@ericschabell) January 13, 2015
“You know we’ve got a technology and a platform that can do things that no one has been able to do before,” he observed.
The wave gliders have been dispatched to hotspots where the sharks are known to gather, around Ano Nuevo, Hopkins Marine Station, the Farallones, Chagos, and Palmyra. As the Inquisitr previously noted, some of these areas are frequented by juvenile elephant seals, which prove to be ideal prey for great white sharks.
— OCEARCH (@OCEARCH) January 27, 2015
Data from the white shark tracking program is not only available to researchers, but also to the general public, according to Prof. Barbara Block.
“Within seconds of a white shark swimming by, we receive the signal and right to your iPhone or another device, you can actually see the shark that’s there,” she said.
Shared via the TOPP website, the tracking program is similar to one developed by Ocearch, a company responsible for tagging numerous white sharks, including several that dwell off the Eastern Seaboard. As USA Today notes, Ocearch’s program has completely reshaped the way scientists approach great white migration.
A large number of white sharks are currently located off the central California coast. In the next few weeks, the predators are expected to move into the Pacific, heading to Hawaii or “The Shark Café,” another area in which great white sharks are known to congregate.
[Image via Ultimate Shark Diving]