Global Finprint offers students an exciting application of the STEM skills they learn in school by involving them in a real-life research project. They learn the process of conducting applied scientific research as well as become adept at identifying fast-moving fishes. A few teens have even had a chance to meet and work alongside Global Finprint’s lead scientist, Dr. Demian Chapman of Florida International University, when he visited the Teen Learning Lab.
Research indicates that some shark populations have plummeted over the last few decades, largely due to high catch rates for fins and/or meat. Sharks and rays are key to healthy reef and ocean ecosystems, and their removal can disrupt marine food webs and cause large-scale habitat changes.
Through Global Finprint, teens are taking an active role in protecting sharks and other marine species even though they live thousands of miles away from an ocean. Their observations, which will save researchers hundreds of hours of work, will help answer questions about the global abundance and biodiversity of sharks and rays, these predators’ role in reef ecosystems and how humans are affecting their habitats. The information will also help scientists evaluate current conservation efforts and priorities and better inform future initiatives.
“As Shedd Aquarium’s conservation research team begins our own project to study Caribbean shark species, we’re excited to also bring shark research inland to Chicago,” said Dr. Steve Kessel, director of marine research at Shedd Aquarium. “With unique opportunities to work with world-renowned scientists like Dr. Demian Chapman, we hope to inspire the next generation of shark conservationists.”
Shedd is also opening the citizen science project to its more than 800 volunteers.
The Global FinPrint database will be available to scientists, governments, students and the general public around the world.