Our guest blog comes from Dr. Ryan Kempster, a shark biologist in the Neuroecology Group at the University of Western Australia, and founder of the shark conservation group Support Our Sharks (SOS). Ryan founded SOS to inform the world about the plight of the most vulnerable shark species. His research focuses on the sensory biology and conservation of sharks and rays. Sharks have always been his passion, and protecting them his goal. To do this, Ryan has embarked on a career in research to better understand sharks. He takes every opportunity to communicate his findings to the general public in the hope that he can inspire others to follow in his passion for protecting these amazing animals.
It’s Shark Week! While sharks are getting all the attention this week, I want to take the opportunity to introduce you to an exciting global shark database: SharkBase. This is your chance to get involved and become a Citizen Shark Scientist! In order to protect sharks, we need to learn more about them. Effective management of sharks starts with an understanding of their population status, which can then tell us about their future conservation and how we can help protect them.
Unfortunately, many shark species (and their close relatives the rays, skates and chimaeras) are at significant risk of unrecoverable decline, with some species having declined to near extinction in recent years. I believe that Citizen Science could hold the key to improving our understanding and management of shark* populations, whilst also advancing community education. This is why my team and I have developed SharkBase, a global shark* encounter database helping to map the distribution and population structure of sharks* worldwide.
Through SharkBase, we are building a global network of Citizen Scientists collecting vital information about these important animals. Using the data gathered by SharkBase, we will not only be able to map the distribution of sharks globally, but, as sharks play a vital role in marine environments, we can also use this information to infer patterns of marine ecosystem health. All data is freely available to download from the SharkBase website, and is used by researchers around the world to assist in the management of shark* populations.
YOU can help – whether you have personally encountered a shark* or not, you can contribute to SharkBase and help researchers better understand these important animals. Simply sign up at www.shark-base.org and get started.
Here are just a couple of the ways that you can get involved:
- Log your past, present and future shark* encounters with SharkBase. If you have photos of sharks* on your computer, you can log these as long as you know the date and location they were taken. You don’t even need to know the species, as our scientists can identify them for you. Alternatively, if you don’t have a photo, but you have a sighting recorded in your dive log or trip diary, then you can submit this sighting (as long as you know the species, date, and location of the encounter).
- Log other people’s shark* encounters with SharkBase. Everyday, thousands of photos and videos of shark* encounters are uploaded to the internet. You can log these sightings as long as you know the date and location. Simply type the web address of the source material (ie: YouTube link or Google image, etc.) into the sighting record so that our scientists can verify the sighting and remove duplicates.
For more information on how you can get involved, visit the SharkBase ‘Get Started’ page (http://www.shark-base.org/get_started). We look forward to welcoming you on board as a SharkBase Citizen Scientist.
* includes sharks, rays and chimaeras.