Crowdfunded shark research: Protect coastal shark migrations

272_BK_20140402_U_ChirstopherLangBryan Keller just graduated with his M.Sc. from Coastal Carolina University. For his thesis, he investigated the effect of familiarity on the social preferences of lemon sharks while researching at the Bimini Biological Field Station. Bryan and his team showed that lemon sharks do indeed prefer familiar individuals. Imagine this: You have two classes of kindergarten students that remained separated for one school year, and at the end of the year, the classes are mixed. More often than not, students would choose ‘friends’ based upon whom they are most familiar with, in this case that would be their classmates. Lemon sharks are the same way, they showed a preference for their ‘classmates’.

Offshore wind farms offer countless benefits, but will there be environmental costs? To help answer the looming question, we will tag a population of bonnethead sharks in South Carolina.  The tags will communicate with acoustic receivers, and when the sharks swim close enough to the receiver, its presence will be documented. By using a series of receivers, we will be able to determine where a shark spends most of its time. After we know where the bonnetheads are spending their time, we will be able to conduct laboratory trials to determine if the introduction of offshore wind farms can displace the shark from this area. Recent work in SC showed that bonnetheads returned to the same estuary each year and from this, we know that the sharks aren’t randomly distributed throughout the environment. What if they can’t get back to the habitat they occupy every year? If offshore wind farms disrupt the marine ecosystem and prohibit sharks from returning, then there could be serious repercussions.

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