Whale shark school race gets underway

August 4, 2015

Brad Norman tagging a whale shark with a satellite tracker (Picture courtesy Samantha Reynolds - ECOCEAN)

Brad Norman tagging a whale shark with a satellite tracker (Picture courtesy Samantha Reynolds – ECOCEAN)

A whale shark researcher from Murdoch University is giving WA school students the opportunity to participate in a ground breaking project which could help to solve the mystery of whale shark migration.

In recent weeks, Brad Norman has attached highly sophisticated satellite tags to whale sharks visiting Ningaloo Reef in order to track their movements and better understand their migratory patterns. These tags were sponsored by 16 schools from across WA.

Thanks to state of the art satellite tracking technology, students from the participating schools will be able to follow the journey of ‘their’ shark over the next two weeks. This activity forms part of the Whale Shark Race Around The World project, which is being run by Mr Norman’s whale shark research and conservation organisation ECOCEAN in conjunction with the WA Department of Education.

The movements of the sharks can be viewed online at the zoaTrack website (http://zoatrack.org/projects/243/analysis) and the ECOCEAN website (http://www.whaleshark.org.au/satellite-tracking/).

“Finding out where the whale sharks go when they are not at Ningaloo Reef is critical to helping this vulnerable species survive,” said Mr Norman, who has been studying the yearly, winter aggregation of whale sharks at the Ningaloo Reef for the last 20 years.

“It helps us to determine the major migratory routes so that we can try to ensure the whale sharks are protected and conserved throughout their range – not just at Ningaloo. We will also pick up information on how fast they swim.

“Previous satellite tracking projects run by ECOCEAN between 2010 and 2014 have shown that whale sharks travel thousands of kilometres north, south and west of Ningaloo. The Race Around the World Program is going to build on this data and will hopefully record more sharks travelling even further.”

In conjunction with the race, the WA Department of Education has developed an eight-week, multi-disciplinary education program for the participating schools, incorporating the Race Around the World into the curriculum.

The program aims to engage pupils in primary and secondary schools in science while giving them a taste of scientific research. They will learn about whale shark biology and behavior, new technologies in scientific research and the natural environment.

The schools taking part in the project are Baynton West Primary School, Greenfields Primary School, Tambrey Primary School, Marangaroo Primary School, Ocean Reef / Forest Crescent Primary Schools, Roebourne District High School, Woodvale Learning Collaborative (which consists of Woodvale Secondary College, North Woodvale Primary School, Creaney Primary School, Halidon Primary School, Woodvale Primary School), South Fremantle Senior High School, Karratha Senior High School, Lynwood Senior High School, John Tonkin College and Guildford Grammar School.

Mr Norman worked with marine scientist Samantha Reynolds to tag the whale sharks with satellite tags developed jointly with scientists from Swansea University in Wales, UK.

Print This Post Print This Post

Leave a comment

You can use these tags : <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

We read every comment and will make every effort to approve each new comment within one working day. To ensure speedy posting, please keep your comments relevant to the topic of discussion, free of inappropriate language and in-line with the editorial integrity of this newsroom. If not, your comments may not be published.

Thanks for commenting!