Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

UNF Research: Sharks All around Here; Biology Program Gathers Data from Visual Reports, Acoustic Receivers

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

UNF Research: Sharks All around Here; Biology Program Gathers Data from Visual Reports, Acoustic Receivers

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Soergel

Just before the celebrity leader of a shark advocacy group speaks Thursday at the University of North Florida, the school's shark research program released findings that show that great white sharks are regular - and repeat - visitors to the waters just off Jacksonville.

And some of them appear to be very pregnant.

Jim Gelsleichter, who heads UNF's Shark Biology Program, said two great whites tagged in Massachusetts visited diving spots 10 to 15 miles off Jacksonville in 2013, and then returned multiple times in 2014, Acoustic receivers placed in that area were able to pick up ultrasonic signals from the tagged sharks.

UNF's program is amassing information on great whites from several sources. They include those acoustic receivers as well as visual reports from right whale researchers flying over the area, whose photos showed some sharks that looked to be close to giving birth.

Also invaluable, Gelsleichter said, is the tracking information from OCEARCH, a nonprofit that caught and tagged a 14-foot great white they named Lydia, just a short distance from the popular surfing spot at Hanna Park called the Poles.

OCEARCH founder Chris Fischer led the 2013 expedition to Jacksonville that caught Lydia. That came just a few weeks after announcing that a behemoth of a great white named Mary Lee had been tracked by satellite into the surf zone near the Jacksonville Beach pier. That set off a media and social-media storm that lasted for months.

Fischer is speaking at UNF at 7 p.m. Thursday on "Tracking Great White Sharks: How Lessons from the Dinner Table Led to Global Exploration." He'll be at the Andrew A. Robinson Jr. Theater, Building 14A. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

The event is free, but e-tickets are required. For info, go to www.unf.edu/lectures.

20 EXPEDITIONS

Since 2007, Fischer has led 20 global expeditions for white sharks and other ocean creatures, becoming a much-interviewed and much-quoted advocate for the often-feared sharks.

Gelsleichter, whose program at UNF has worked with OCEARCH, said Fischer's work has helped dispel some of that fear, or at least raised the interest in great whites through its online tracking of tagged animals, whose journeys can now easily be tracked by the public. …

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