SUFB Special: Shark Week 001 Tracking Sevengill Sharks using Citizen Science with Michael Bear

By July 7, 2015 July 11th, 2015 Speak Up For Blue Podcast


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Speak Up For Blue Podcast
Shark Week 2015 is here!!! Normally, I am not crazy about Dicovery Channel’s Shark Week because they have really disappointed the Ocean Conservation Community over the past 5 years or so, especially in 2013, when they aired the fakumentary called “Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives.” However, the new President at Discovery said they were moving away from fake documentaries and heading back towards more scientifically accurate and appropriate programming. I’ve watched the first episode of this year’s Shark Week, “Shark Ninja” and I found ti to be quite intriguing.

No matter how we view shark week ocean conservationists and scientists use the focus on sharks to make people aware of the major issues these sharks face, but also to shed light on how important these species are to the oceans. Sharks are an apex predator, which means they control the populations of the prey and maintain a balance in the food web in their habitats. A lack of sharks could throw the food webs out of wack and change the make up of the ocean, which could have negative environmental and economic impoacts.

I am a fan of using the public’s focus on Shark Week to make the Speak Up For Blue community more aware of the variety of shark conservation and science projects that are being conducted as you read this article. As you know, I launched the Speak Up For Blue Podcast a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to use this platform to spread awareness of the projects that I know that are happening around the world.

On the 1st episode of this special series of podcasts, I interview Michael Bear, Director of Citizen Science at Ocean Sanctuaries, who as an avid SCUBA diver in San Diego, Califonia started a Citizen Science program for other divers to monitor the presence of sevengill sharks. These mysterious sharks were suddenly noticed in 2009 and it seemed as though they appreared out of nowhere. Michael himself recounts in his interview his first encounter with a sevengill shark (his sotory is quite amazing!).

Michael’s Citizen Science program didn’t begin with support from the scientific community nor did it have funding. It started with a passionate diver who wanted to know more about a mysterious species. The program gained traction within the diving community and caught wind in the media. Scientists started contacting Michael to discuss doing more detailed studies. And now the program is in it’s 5th year with lots of data including the possibility of indentifying individuals by unique markings.

Find out more about this project and how you can get involved in Citizen Science by listening to the podcast.

If you like this episode then leave a review and comment down below!

Notes from this weeks podcast

Ocean Sanctuaries Website

Ocean Sanctuaries Sevengill Shark Citizen Science Monitoring Program

Ocean Sanctuaries Citizen Science Methodology

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Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Conrad Mc Alpin says:

    Since it seems for years, from the time i was in grade school learning about sharks.
    How come still to this day wet suits are black, not some fancy day glow color, also seems wake &surf boards all have the shape of a seal or dolphin and placing a person on it gives the appears of small dangling flippers like a seal surfing on the water.

    Do seals and other mamals or fish give off a sent that the sharks can detect.

    2nd question

    How come with all the technology today and all the tags on these sharks science can not catch a shark mating.

    You can see whales and other species breed, but this is unknown.

    3rd question

    All the sharks that are gathering in the caroliners no can tag these fish with food and pellet gps to follow the animals for some time.

    Thanks for reading

  • Andrew Lewin says:

    Thanks for the questions Conrad. Here are my answers (keep in mind I am a marine ecologist, but not a shark expert):
    1) There are some different coloured wet suits around; however, black seems to be more popular. From some of the sources that I looked up, the consensus seems that the colour of wetsuits don’t matter too much in terms of sharks because the sharks don’t have great eyesight and most sharks attack from below during dusk and/or dawn where the the light is dim; therefore most sharks wouldn’t be able to see colours from that viewpoint.;
    2) Some sharks have been caught mating on camera (; however, scientists still don’t know much about many of the shark species, including their spawning/mating grounds.;
    3) The sharks in the Carolinas are known to show up at this time as it is part of their annual migration (it happens in Florida too!) Some sharks are tagged, but you can’t tag all of them. The main challenge with the Carolina situation is that the sharks are coming in closer to shore than normal and it’s the beginning of summer for many students. Families need to be aware of the dangers on being in the ocean during this time. It would be good to tag some more of these sharks so we can see when they are on the move and how close they come to shore.

    Thanks for the questions!

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