It’s National Science Week this week, and there’s lots of things to get involved in, including the Whale Shark Race Around the World. The Race which officially kicked off yesterday, will see schools around the country join scientists in tracking the movements of the world’s biggest fish – the Whale Shark.
ECOCEAN is Australia’s only not-for-profit research organisation dedicated to conserving the whale shark. As well as expanding our knowledge of whale shark movements and distribution in the south-eastern Indian Ocean, their research has also expanded the learning opportunities for Western Australian school students through the Whale Shark Race Around the World.
The Whale Shark Race Around the World started in 2015 with schools around Western Australia sponsoring satellite tags that were deployed on whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia. The Race is a joint ECOCEAN-Department of Education program designed to inspire students in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) learning. The tracks of the tagged sharks are available for anyone to see on ALA’s Zoatrack (www.zoatrack.org) platform, so students are able to follow the movements of their sharks. Samantha Reynolds is one of the lead researchers for the project, and she said, “We bring real-world scientific research directly into the classroom and use the world’s biggest fish to get kids excited about science and marine conservation”.
For this year’s race, teachers and students will be able to use ZoaTrack visualisation and analysis tools in their lessons and will have access to the ongoing tracking of the sharks. Involvement in the race will support students and teachers to further develop their STEM capabilities, including: critical analysis and creative thinking, deepen their knowledge and understanding of the whale shark, the marine environment of Western Australia and scientific research. Teaching and learning resources developed by the Department of Education are designed to support teachers and students to engage in innovative and interactive STEM learning activities.
Tagging of whale sharks for the 2017 Race Around the World has been happening over the past few weeks, and researchers have been tagging large, mature whale sharks, hoping to gain insights into where they go to breed. “We’d like to find some clues to where whale sharks go to find love”, said Ms Reynolds, “because despite being the biggest fish in the sea, we still don’t know where they mate or give birth” she explained.
You can take a look at the tracks of the tagged whale sharks which is being updated daily at (https://zoatrack.org/whalesharkrace).
About ECOCEAN (www.whaleshark.org.au)
ECOCEAN is Australia’s only not-for-profit research organisation dedicated to conserving the world’s biggest fish, the whale shark. ECOCEAN scientists have been working on whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef since 1995 and have contributed to the global protection of whale sharks through reports to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). ECOCEAN also promotes conservation of whale sharks and the marine environment by engaging members of the public in its pioneering “citizen science” projects. ECOCEAN was instrumental in setting up the world’s largest whale shark photo-identification library, now called the Wildbook for Whale Sharks, which encourages members of the public to get involved in whale shark research by submitting their photos online. The library currently has over 8000 individually identified whale sharks from over 50 countries around the world. And an innovative new program by ECOCEAN is engaging the next generation of scientists by involving school children in the satellite-tracking of whale sharks, connecting them to real-world scientific research and inspiring them to protect and conserve our precious marine environment and its inhabitants.
For more information about ECOCEAN or about the Whale Shark Race Around the World, please contact Samantha Reynolds at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or 0424563472. For more information about ZoaTrack please visit the website (https://zoatrack.org/).