Scientists are using drones to study great white sharks along the coast of Southern California to improve their understanding of how these marine predators interact, and how to keep people safe.
Scientists use drones to study great white sharks along California coast
WHTC reports that the Shark Lab at California State University deploys drones for aerial surveillance of the sharks and uses underwater robots, while the scientists also tag some sharks using a spear that fits the animals with a transmitter to track their movements during a two-year study.
“Drones have actually changed our world. They’ve become a much more powerful, cost-effective tool. So in the past, we used helicopters and planes and it was very expensive,” Shark Lab Director Chris Lowe. “Despite the fact that shark populations are going up and more people are using the water than ever before, we’re not really seeing more people actually being bitten by sharks,” he said. “In fact, in some years, the rate has gone down. So what that tells us, as a scientist, is that we’re not on their menu at all. But occasionally accidents happen.”
Along the coastline from Santa Barbara to San Diego researchers from the shark Lab have been flying drones to count the number of sharks and people, and look at the proximity of the creatures to the shore and the swimmers.
The researchers hope that the study will eventually help lifeguards better protect the public with an improved understanding of how sharks behave and whether some species are more aggressive than others.
Patrick Rex who also works as a researcher at the Shark Lab said that scientists are trying to determine what environmental factors increase the likelihood of people encountering sharks.
“We’re also trying to figure this out for white sharks as well, what environmental parameters bring them closer to shore and maybe closer to humans,” Rex said.
Last Monday a 63-year-old woman from New York City died after being attacked by a great white shark by swimming in the Atlantic Ocean off the Maine coast.
Over the last few years, we have seen more and more researchers and scientists using drones to study wildlife.
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Photo: WHTC / Reuters