As Shark Week begins on August 9, Shedd Aquarium is offering a way to virtually dive underwater and come face-to-face with sharks from the comfort of your home with video collected in The Bahamas by Shedd scientists during a shark research expedition. Providing a unique diver’s eye view into the world of sharks in the region, the videos showcase a multitude of shark species of all shapes and sizes, showcasing their strength and curiosity—attributes that make sharks the apex predators of our oceans. Although Shedd’s 2020 shark research expedition was postponed due to COVID-19 safety concerns, the underwater footage collected helps Shedd continue to study marine species from afar and is the perfect way to celebrate Shark Week from home.
Led by Dr. Steve Kessel, director of marine research at Shedd Aquarium, scientists at Shedd are studying shark populations in The Bahamas, which are protected by law within the waters of the island nation after the establishment of the Bahamas Shark Sanctuary in 2011. By studying sharks in the sanctuary, Shedd’s scientists can learn about how many sharks live in the area, determine the diversity of those shark populations, and understand sharks’ greater impact on the ecology of a region.
In addition to learning about sharks by watching Shedd’s underwater footage, animal-enthusiasts of all ages can view a new educational episode about sharks through the aquarium’s Stay Home With Shedd series. Individuals and families can also join Shedd in-person for Shark Week! Guests can discover zebra sharks, sandbar sharks and many other shark species at Shedd in the Caribbean Reef, Wild Reef and Oceans exhibits. Tickets can be purchased on Shedd’s website.
BACKGROUND: Although sharks have survived five mass extinction events over the past 450 million years, many shark populations across the globe are in decline. Overfishing has been the primary offender in global population declines, leaving one-quarter of all elasmobranch species—sharks, rays and skates— threatened with extinction.
Dedicated to preserving biodiversity and safeguarding species, Shedd studies species in The Bahamas—including sharks—to help inform strategies that protect populations from harms such as overfishing, climate change and more. Relying on Shedd’s research vessel, the R/V Coral Reef II, Shedd’s shark scientists use many research techniques including dive surveys, scientific long-lines (typically used for fishing, but in this case for research) and the placement of underwater cameras known as Baited Remote Underwater Video Surveys (BRUVS).
Developed by the global shark research program Global FinPrint, BRUVS consist of “bait cages” to attract nearby sharks, a GoPro camera and a heavy metal stand with weights. BRUVS sit unmonitored on the ocean floor for one hour and footage is later downloaded and distributed to volunteers helping collect data from the videos, which adds to Global FinPrint’s study of shark populations across the world. Among those watching the footage are Shedd volunteers and teens visiting Shedd’s Teen Learning Lab. Last month, data collected from the underwater videos helped Global FinPrint, Shedd and research collaborators complete a landmark study of shark populations across the globe, which was published in Nature.
For more information about the sharks at Shedd and Shedd’s shark research, visit www.sheddaquarium.org/keepsharksswimming.
VISUALS: Videos show multiple species of sharks such as tiger sharks, reef sharks and hammerhead sharks swimming in their natural environments and exploring research equipment placed by Shedd’s scientists. The videos provide a look into sharks’ strength and curiosity—attributes that make sharks the apex predators of our oceans.
VIDEOS: Videos are available for download: https://personal.filesanywhere.com/fs/v.aspx?v=8e6a6988616071b5a3ac. Video credit: ©Shedd Aquarium