Tracking Great White Sharks off Cape Cod by Land, by Air, by Sea

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Tracking Great White Sharks off Cape Cod by Land, by Air, by Sea

By Jason Kurtis, ABC News

Two days a week, from June through October, the Aleutian leaves the dock of the Chatham Bars Inn in Chatham, Massachusetts, in search of great white sharks.

Marine scientist Greg Skomal of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries is usually on board armed with two poles: one for filming the elusive predators and another for placing acoustic tags. He's joined by a small crew of researchers and by Atlantic White Shark Conservancy executive director and co-founder Cynthia Wigren.

"The ultimate goal, really, is to learn as much as we can about the species to be able to protect it and support the conservation of white sharks," said Wigren.

A sign in front of the library in the center of Chatham, Massachusetts proclaims "Welcome to Chatham. Summer home of the Great White."

Flying overhead are their eyes in the sky, pilot Wayne Davis. "With every shark that he sees, he's going to give us a call on the radio," said Skomal. "We're going to steam over there as quickly as we can. Once we get up to that shark ... I'll be out on the pulpit, and I'll be waiting to get close to that shark."

In front of the library in the center of town is a sign proclaiming, "Welcome to Chatham. Summer home of the great white," and Wigren said she has seen a shift in attitude.

"People are starting feel like these are our sharks," she said. Signs at the entrance to the beach alert swimmers and beachgoers about the presence of great whites, encouraging people to take the proper precautions when they're in or on the water.

Skomal said, "People aren't running away in fear. They're flocking to the beach in fascination."

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Great white shark tracking goes mobile

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Great white shark tracking goes mobile

By Shachar Peled, CNN

Northeast beachgoers are no strangers to shark sightings. Now they can share news of those sightings in real time with friends -- and scientists.

A new mobile app called Sharktivity allows users to track where sharks have been seen along the coast. They can also submit their own sightings.

There is science behind the app, too. Sharktivity is being launched by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that works to protect white sharks, also known as great whites. And it was developed in part by marine biologist Gregory Skomal, who has worked at the state's Division of Marine Fisheries for 29 years.

Skomal and his team plan to vet each sighting that is submitted.

    The app includes the locations of some of the 80 sharks that researchers have already tagged. So far, it's available only for iPhone users.

    "Most people have phones with them at the beach, and the reasoning is getting information to them as soon as possible," said Conservancy President Cynthia Wigren. She said the app could be useful for not just beachgoers, but also boaters, fishermen and even pilots along the East Coast.

    Until now, lifeguards and emergency responders could notify others of a shark sighting or incident only after the fact, according to Leslie Reynolds, chief ranger for the Cape Cod National Seashore.

    With the app, Reynolds said, the public can "report shark sightings in real time and receive alerts in real time."

    The app also includes shark safety tips and a button to let users donate money to shark research.

    The Division of Marine Fisheries holds a database of great white shark sightings that dates back to the 1800s, Skomal said. Information from the app can help them expand their records, he said.

    There has been a significant growth in the Cape Cod great white shark population in recent years, up from 68 in 2014 to 141 in 2015.

    At the same time, Reynolds says lifeguards have been reporting an increase in visitors, recording more than 1 million annual beachgoers during the 10- to 12-week summer period in the past three years.

    "People are interested and want to see them, asking lifeguards about the sharks," Reynolds said.

    According to the Global Shark Attack File, there were 59 shark attacks in the United States in 2015, with one fatality in Hawaii.

    Wigren said the app should not draw people into harm's way.

    "We clearly cannot control what the public does, but hopefully with this information, people will be more aware and cautious," she said.

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    Valuable STEM Experience Comes Alive on M/V OCEARCH in Jacksonville, FL

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    Valuable STEM Experience Comes Alive on M/V OCEARCH in Jacksonville, FL

    Nonprofits OCEARCH and Atlantic White Shark Conservancy have made a significant impact in the shark research world by providing funding and resources for critical shark studies. This month, the organizations are teaming up to connect a lucky group of Gills Club members to research through a STEM-based mock shark tagging event aboard the M/V OCEARCH.

    The Gills Club is Atlantic White Shark Conservancy's STEM-based education initiative dedicated to connecting girls with female scientists from around the world, sharing knowledge, and inspiring shark and ocean conservation. “Girls have historically received less encouragement to pursue courses of study in the sciences," explained Cynthia Wigren, President of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy. "Even now, the gender disparity in higher education and workplace reflects continued male bias. By introducing young girls to STEM-based lessons in shark research, the Gills Club is equipping the next generation of ocean stewards and boosting their chances of entering a career in science."

    Biologist Mel Gonzalez De Acevedo was not quite prepared for the reception she got from the group of 1st through 5th grade girls at the inaugural meeting of the Gills Club in Jacksonville this January; De Acevedo was prepared to address a group of beginners but in fact these young ladies possessed knowledge of shark biology she recalls not learning until college. On March 15th, this group of shark savvy girls at the Fernandina Beach Christian Academy will be given the opportunity of a lifetime when they board the M/V OCEARCH, a 126-foot vessel equipped with a custom 55,000 hydraulic lift and research platform, for a mock shark tagging event.

    “Every job within the 21st century requires skills in science, technology, engineering and math. STEM education prepares our students to become creative and innovative problem solvers, researchers, engineers, and designers," said Chris Fischer, OCEARCH Founding Chairman and Expedition Leader. "This Jacksonville Gills Club event will introduce girls to the scientific investigation process, and demonstrate applications of technology and engineering in field research. They’ll discover the different types of tags and biological sampling methods, the purpose each serves, as well as application techniques. They will also be asked to interpret actual data that has been collected and have the opportunity to speak with OCEARCH crew and scientists about their tasks while performing shark research.”

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