Monday, 11 December 2017

The enigmatic endangered whale shark: 22-year-long global citizen science project sheds light on these animals

Date:  November 29, 2017
Source:  Georgia Aquarium

Vital scientific information about whale shark behavior, biology and ecology is being uncovered by an unlikely source -- ecotourists and other citizens. Thanks to modern advancements in technology and the burgeoning field of "citizen science," new information about gregarious and mysterious whale sharks is being revealed in a study slated to publish on November 29 in BioScience.

Whale shark habitat spans the globe, making long-term research over wide geographic ranges a difficult challenge for whale shark researchers. To address this challenge, researchers harnessed modern technology, creating an online photo database called Wildbook for Whale Sharks and enlisted the help of ecotourists and citizens across the globe to upload any images of whale sharks they happened to see or encounter anywhere in the world. Photos of nearly 30,000 encounters representing 6,000 individually-identified sharks across 54 countries over 22 years has given scientists a rich data set to analyze and better understand the nature of this endangered species that has long been misunderstood and understudied.

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