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Wisdom Wednesday | Shark Research Methods

Shore Buddies Wisdom Wednesday 11/11/2020

Image of shark research by Instagram user Marina
Image by Marina

Research on sharks has allowed knowing from their origin and evolution to the applications that they have in different ambits of the human life. It is tough to know about the beginning of the research, but it seems that the oldest casual investigations date back to the time of the Renaissance when people assumed that the fossils of the large teeth embedded in the rocks came from dragons or snakes. The most significant change in research over this time has been its funding and the purpose of performing it. While naturalists used to work on their own, on behalf of individuals or supported by a few patrons, today researchers constitute a large group that works according to scientific goals and a rigorous methodology. For many years, researchers have been applying new and improved techniques to study sharks. But how exactly do they manage to research one of the ocean’s most notorious apex predators? 

  1. Shark tagging is the practice of catching specific species of sharks and attaching a tracking tag to the dorsal fin. After this, the shark is released. This tag sends satellite or radio transmissions to the monitor or other device used by the research team.
  2. Aerial surveys use drone cameras, though helicopters and other aerial methods are also used. From the air, it’s easier to spot sharks and note down observations of the behaviours and natural habitat of sharks that dwell near the ocean’s surface. 
  3. Underwater Videography show scientists what sharks look like, how they adjust according to age or environmental changes, how they act around prey or other predators, and much more.
  4. Literature Study is always done first in the shark research process, so that you know everything that is already known about the shark species before you conduct your brand new research.
  5. Migration tracking from underwater is a way to install tracking devices underwater on seamounts (underwater mountains) that can monitor and document migration patterns of tagged sharks within a certain area or region.
  6. eDNA is a research method that entails filtering and assaying water samples for a certain shark species’ environmental DNA fragments.
  7. Forensic Research is used to conduct research on the specific shark species being targeted by fisheries for the shark fin trade.