The events of Jaws may have never taken place if the characters had access to the OCEARCH Global Shark Tracker. This unique system uses GPS tracking to track the movements of 47 sharks in the Atlantic Ocean off the East Coast of the United States.

OCEARCH works along with top scientists to collect valuable tracking and biological data for a number of marine species, including great white sharks. Crew members of the M/V OCEARCH, the organization’s ship and at-sea laboratory, use a 75,000-pound custom-built lift to gain access to the sharks. Scientists then have approximately a 15-minute window to conduct studies before the sharks are tagged and released back into the water.

The GPS tracking devices are unobtrusive enough to allow the sharks to maintain normal patterns of behavior. When a shark breaks the surface of the water, the device emits a “ping” that is received by a satellite. A series of three consecutive pings provides enough information for accurate geo-location. According to Nick Whitney, a marine biologist on the OCEARCH team, the satellite picks up an average of 100 data points per second, which adds up to a total of 8.5 million a day.

OCEARCH is sharing this unique tracking program with nature enthusiasts and other interested individuals via their website. The sharks along the East Coast, along with others being tracked off the coastlines of South America, Africa and Australia, are represented by dots on a TruEarth viewer. Users can click on any dot to see the corresponding shark’s “name” along with date and location of tagging. Another button drills down into more information such as length, weight and distance traveled, and the user can also view a map showing a shark’s movements since being tagged.

Thanks to OCEARCH, scientists are able to gain a previously unattainable look at the behavior and movements of sharks. The organization has also developed a curriculum for students in grades 3-5 and 6-8 using the Global Shark Tracker as a dynamic, engaging platform to learn STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills.
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