Stanford Researchers Develop App to Track White Sharks

An estimated 220 white sharks visit the Bay Area coast each year between late summer and March

Maybe you’ve never had the urge -- or the gumption -- to swim alongside massive, feeding white sharks. But now there’s a way you can at least keep intimate tabs on them…from afar.

Researchers at Stanford University have developed an app called Shark Net, where you can track more than a dozen tagged sharks roaming up and down the Bay Area coastline, chowing down on elephant seals.

The sharks are among 100 tagged by biologists over the last few years during the shark’s annual visits to the Ano Nuevo State Reserve and the Farallon Islands.

With the new technology, once a tagged shark travels within 1000 feet of six floating receivers, it transmits a signal to a satellite which then transmits it to the app. Nearly real time, users will get a coordinate on the map of the shark’s location. The app also includes a 3D rendering of the specific shark along with video and the shark’s name.

“We have Pincher, and we have Little John,” said marine biologist Randy Kochevar, ticking off some of the names. “We have Tom Johnson and Sickle Fin.”

Kochevar said the idea behind the technology is to connect the public to sharks, and possibly dispel some of the nastier stereotypes.

“People can start relating to these animals as individual animals,” Kochevar said. “Not as these anonymous monsters that are lurking in the dark.”

An estimated 220 white sharks visit the Bay Area coast each year between late summer and March. Kochevar hopes to eventually expand the program to track more sharks, as well as critters like sea turtles and whales.

“I think if there’s any hope in conserving wildlife in general,” Kochevar said. “People have to have some sort of personal connection to it.”

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