Surfing Robot Tracks Great White Sharks, You Can Follow Along with Your iPhone

wave glider robotYouTube/Video screen capture

Shark week may be over but there is a new way to satisfy your curiosity about the amazing predators. A new project from researchers at Stanford University uses a wave-powered, gliding robot to track tagged great white sharks off the coast of San Francisco. The data that is sent back by the mobile lab carried by the robot is used by the research team to learn more about the sharks' homing abilities, but they're also presenting all the tracking information to the public in a free app called Shark Net.

shark net 2Shark Net app/Screen capture
BBC Nature describes the self-propelled craft:

The bright yellow shark-tracking robot designed by the company consists of two parts - a glider that descends 23ft (7m) down into the ocean with a surfboard above.

The glider has a special wing system that converts wave energy into forward thrust to keep the robot moving through the water. It also has a receiver that picks up the audio signals from the sharks' electronic tags.

All of the glider's scientific instruments are on the surfboard. These instruments include a satellite link that lets the researchers track the sharks' locations. To add to their tracking power, the team has also placed fixed buoys with audio receivers in known shark hotspots. In just its first week, the robot has already picked up five great white sharks.

With all of this cool data, the researchers saw a great way to raise public awareness of the rich diversity of wildlife in the area -- what project leader Professor Barbara Block calls the "blue Serengeti." The team developed the free Shark Net app that lets users see not just the real-time movements of the sharks, but photos, videos, 3D models and information on the animals' life histories.

shark net 1Shark Net app/Screen capture

"It's sharks in your pocket," said Prof Block, "It gives us the ability to connect the public with what's happening off the coast of California."

And that connection will hopefully inspire people to protect these animals that are crucial to the balance of our marine ecosystems.

Surfing Robot Tracks Great White Sharks, You Can Follow Along with Your iPhone
The wave-powered robot is helping researchers to better understand shark behavior and connecting the public with the threatened predators.

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