When is the research expedition?
The expedition begins on February 22, 2017 and ends on March 15, 2017. The expedition will kick off with education and outreach events from February 22-26th and fishing will be begin on February 27th.
Which institutions will be participating and/or receiving samples from this expedition?
The expedition will include scientists from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Mote Marine Laboratory, University of North Florida, Adventure Aquarium, Georgia Aquarium, Georgia Southern, University of South Florida, University of South Carolina-Beaufort, WCS’ New York Aquarium, University of Massachusetts, Cape Eleuthera Institute, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Auburn University, and College of Charleston.
What are your objectives for this expedition?
OCEARCH and its team of collaborating scientists are embarking on their 28th expedition, and the first of the year, to tag mature white sharks in the Lowcountry. The team’s goal is to gather data on the ecology, physiology, and behavior of sharks in the Atlantic Ocean, and to increase the sample size of the research started in 2012 in Cape Cod, MA.
Can you describe your process for tagging a shark?
Sharks are caught from tenders using handlines and are guided by hand in the water on and off the lift. After capture, sharks are brought to the submerged platform of the M/V OCEARCH vessel and the platform is raised. Once the sharks are restrained and hoses of water have been set to enable the flow of oxygen, they are measured. SPOT and acoustic tags are attached.
What samples will you collect from the sharks?
Once caught, the sharks will be measured, sexed and tissue, blood, fin clips, and parasites samples are collected. Small fin clips are removed with a pair of scissors; a muscle sample is removed from the flank with a 8mm biopsy punch and two blood samples are taken from the caudal vein.
Will the sample collection and studies impact the shark’s health?
While the tagging method, which has been used on sharks and other species for over a half century may cause some level of brief discomfort, there is no scientific evidence that it impacts their behavior or survival post-release. In fact, data from the Global Shark Tracker provides strong evidence that the animals tagged using this method show long-term survival and long-distance migrations indicative of normal function and reproductive cycles.
What studies will you run from the samples?
Scientists will assess the physiological effects of capture stress in the white shark, including characterizing post release recovery; assess the reproductive condition, reproductive cycle, gestation period, and fecundity of white sharks in the Atlantic Ocean; understand parasite species presence, abundance, and infection sites in white sharks; perform comparative analysis of DNA sequence variation in the white shark; study contaminants of emerging concern in white sharks from US Atlantic waters, including flame retardants, pharmaceuticals, and other anthropogenic pollutants released into aquatic environments; develop values for trace minerals, vitamins, and fatty acids for white sharks; and identifying mutualistic interactions between bacteria and host organisms.
What does the tracking data from the Global Shark Tracker tell us about sharks?
The data allows us to see the range of shark movements in different parts of the world - their migration patterns - and helps us uncover the areas in need of protection. The tracking data allows studies such as the examination of fine and broad-scale movements, habitat use, site fidelity, residency, and feeding behavior of white sharks. The data we’ve enabled so far, has allowed scientists to figure out the mating and breeding sites of the species on the west coast of Mexico – Guadalupe Island. Scientists have also documented the first migration of Great White Sharks to the gulf, and the mid-Atlantic ridge.
What happens to the data you’ve collected?
The data is shared in an open source environment with collaborating institutions that utilize it to conduct studies that are eventually published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The papers, which can take 2-5 years to publish, are used to assist in policy decisions.
How can I follow the expedition?
Follow OCEARCH on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (@OCEARCH), and YouTube for real-time Expedition Lowcountry updates.
You can also follow the sharks tagged during Expedition Lowcountry by accessing the near-real time, free online Global Shark Tracker or by downloading the Global Shark Tracker App available for Apple and Android platforms.
Who supports the expedition?
Costa Sunglasses, YETI Coolers, Southern Tide, SAFE Boats, Contender, Landry’s, and Mustang support the expedition.