Guadalupe Island ’12

Project type: Expedition
Dates: October 18-26, 2012
Location: Guadalupe Island, Mexico
Base: Liveaboard
Project target: placing acoustic tags on Great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias), particularly large pregnant females
Lead scientist: Dr. Edgar Mauricio Hoyos Padilla
Tagging team: William Winram & Fred Buyle
Participants: fourteen from age 21 to 70
Sea life: abundant

The main challenge of this tagging expedition is simply the great white sharks. Paying attention at all times and making eye contact with these apex predators is what is required. Knowledge of the behaviour of great white sharks is paramount to alleviate social hierarchy behaviours toward the divers.

Eleven great white sharks, mostly large pregnant females, were tagged over the course of 5 days on site.

Here is a tagging sequence:

William lines up with the base of the dorsal fin - Photo Lukas Mueller

William lines up with the base of the dorsal fin – Photo Lukas Mueller

The tag is in place - Photo Lukas Mueller

The tag is in place – Photo Lukas Mueller

William retrieves the shaft - Photo Lukas Mueller

William retrieves the shaft – Photo Lukas Mueller

Back to the surface for air - Photo Lukas Mueller

Back to the surface for air – Photo Lukas Mueller

Great white shark with tag in place - Photo Lukas Mueller

Great white shark with tag in place – Photo Lukas Mueller

Participants to this expedition were witness to science in action. They enjoyed evening talks on the boat given by Dr. Mauricio Hoyos about sharks, his research and the particulars of Guadalupe island. Many thanks to them as their coming together to support sharks conservation is what made this expedition possible.

Aliwal Shoal ’12

Project type: Expedition
Dates: February 19-28 & May 23-31, 2012
Location: Aliwal Shoal, South Africa
Base: Mark & Gail Addison, Blue Wilderness, Durban
Project target: DNA sampling from black tip sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus)
Lead scientist: Jessica Escobar-Porras PhD (c)
DND sampling team: Fred Buyle & William Winram
Sea life: abundant

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Carcharhinus limbatus

Jessica Escobar-Porras’ research involves an examination of the relationship between population structures and reproductive strategies present in sharks inhabiting temperate and subtropical waters. She hopes to make inferences based on the variance between ovoviparous, oviparous and viviparous shark populations. The three species that are being used in her study are ragged-tooth, black tip and catsharks. THE WATERMEN PROJECT participated in the study of the black tip sharks.

Fred Buyle and William Winram conducted DNA sample collection on a breath-hold using non-lethal biopsy guns.

Fred Buyle as he is about to take a DNA sample from a black tip shark - Photo William Winram

Fred Buyle as he is about to take a DNA sample from a black tip shark – Photo William Winram

Jessica Escobar-Porras says: “An interesting element of this research project is the level of international involvement from various stakeholders in the exploration of an innovative conservation strategy. In addition, information obtained from field trips involves the use of free diving techniques – essentially, divers do not use any breathing apparatus or cages popularly associated with shark diving.”

Escobar-Porras, who hails from Medellin in Colombia, says she chose to study in South Africa because of its amazing biodiversity. She came to South Africa to learn techniques and obtain specialist knowledge in a country very fortunate in terms of its shark population and hopes to set up her own institute for marine studies and conservation in Colombia, in partnership with her South African colleagues.

Along its mission for the scientist, THE WATERMEN PROJECT team always takes the time to take photographs so as to establish a catalogue of the individuals which are studied.

Fred Buyle taking a photograph of a sampled black tip shark - Photo William Winram

Fred Buyle taking a photograph of a sampled black tip shark – Photo William Winram