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Some sharks have become social media stars

Lucas Mearian | July 22, 2015
When news of a shark attack on professional surfer Mick Fanning reached Costa Rica and 9-year-old Ella Strickland Sunday, she grabbed her mother's smartphone to see if the great white was one of the sharks she knows.

Lydia the great white shark OCEARCH
Lydia, a 14-foot great white shark, as she's being tagged off the coast of Jacksonville, Fla. in March 2013. Credit: OCEARCH

When news of a shark attack on professional surfer Mick Fanning reached Costa Rica and 9-year-old Ella Strickland Sunday, she grabbed her mother's smartphone to see if the great white was one of the sharks she knows.

Happily for Ella, the shark that attacked Fanning during the J-Bay Open surfing competition wasn't Lydia, her family's favorite and one of many Ella has been tracking via OCEARCH's Shark Tracker.

Lydia, a 14-foot, one-ton great white, is kicking it in The Bahamas right now. Twitter, however, has lit up with activity about Lydia and other sharks on OCEARCH's mobile app.

"She wanted to know if the man was OK and if the shark was OK," said Rob Strickland, Ella's father.

Rob Strickland, a lifelong conservationist and shark enthusiast, used the news of the shark attack to give his daughter a geography lesson about where sharks were located off the coast Costa Rica.

Strickland, who after meeting OCEARCH founder Chris Fischer became a member of its board of directors last year, is former CTO at Cricket and the Weather Channel as well as the former CIO at T-Mobile and Dish Network. He's currently the co-founder of TheDigitalNexus, a tech consultancy.

Strickland is one of a number of tech execs who've been drawn to OCEARCH, a non-profit, global, shark-tracking project that is trying to personify sharks through the use of tracking devices and social media. Strickland has also been critical to connecting OCEARCH with tech moguls that can help get its message out.

For example, Strickland connected OCEARCH with Xavient, a consultancy that helped the site develop a mobile app for Android smartphones. Previously, OCEARCH's mobile app worked only on iPhones.

Strickland is also connecting the research project with Televisa, the largest multimedia company in Latin America. Televisa is working to get the word out about OCEARCH's next project, which is tagging tiger and hammerhead sharks in the Gulf of Mexico this fall.

OCEARCH's Shark Tracker offers a near real-time view of about 130 sharks around the globe. The sharks run the gamut, from great whites and hammerheads to tigers and makos. The sharks are tracked to create a three-dimensional image of their activities. OCEARCH is hoping to develop successful conservation and management strategies by studying shark habits in granular detail.

More importantly, OCEARCH has open-sourced all of its data, allowing scientists and shark enthusiasts alike to see tracking information at the same time.

Using OCEARCH's shark tracker, it's easy to see there was only one tagged shark in the area of Jefferey's Bay, where the shark attack on professional surfer Mick Fanning took place on Sunday. There are at least two dozen sharks off the coast of South Africa that OSEARCH is tracking.

 

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