Project Description: The White Shark Speedometer

Summary

White Sharks are important and charismatic apex predators, but they are also elusive animals traveling mostly unseen in a huge ocean, so many aspects of their biology and behavior remain a mystery. Dr. Salvador Jorgensen, a shark ecologist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, uses special electronic tags attached to the sharks to record their behaviors in the wild. The tags eventually pop off and can be located by satellite and radio signals to recover the stored data. Some critical questions about the energetic demands of these animals and how often they use bursts of speed in attempts to catch prey could be answered if we had a good way of recording the swimming speed of these animals over time. In the spring of 2018, Dr. Jorgensen asked students enrolled in MSCI 437 (CSUMB’s Ocean Instrumentation class) to help develop and test a low-cost shark speedometer that could be attached to one of his shark tags. The class researched common methods for measuring the speed of objects moving through water and selected four promising sensor technologies for preliminary tests. Based on their results, they narrowed the list to two candidates and developed working prototypes of each. One was based on measuring the differential pressure generated by a Pitot tube (similar to the way aircraft measure their air speed), and the other was based on measuring the rotation speed of a small paddlewheel, which the students manufactured on a 3D printer. The prototypes produced by the class still need refinement, so another student in Dr. Moore’s lab will be picking up where the class left off, to improve the design and prepare it to be attached to a shark tag on a real white shark.

Student Involvement

Seven senior capstone students enrolled in MSCI 437 did the initial development work. One additional student (a NOAA CCME Fellowship awardee) will head up a small team of other students working on this project.

Broader Significance

Sharks in general, and white sharks in particular, face an uncertain future. As apex predators they likely play a crucial role in structuring marine ecosystems. The more we know about their requirements and behaviors, the more likely we can implement effective measures to conserve these animals.

IfAME Principal Investigator

Dr. Steve Moore

Financial Support

Course Equipment Fees to purchase parts for the prototypes, NOAA CCME fellowship

Lab Support

N/A

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