Crowdfunded great white shark expedition prepares to set off

This shark week, let’s cut through the drama and focus on the facts. Sharks strike fear into the hearts of many swimmers, but the number of fatalities does not really justify this anxiety. Just over four fatal shark attacks occur each year on average. Meanwhile, some 100 million sharks die at the hands of human beings.

As apex predators, sharks are among the most important creatures in the sea. “No sharks, no ocean,” marine biologist Chris Fischer told Digital Trends. Fischer heads Ocearch, a nonprofit organization that supports expeditions to tag and track white sharks, while open sourcing the data — including real-time tracking pings – online. The group just completed a Kickstarter campaign, crowdsourcing $154,702 for its next expedition.

For years, Ocearch has been studying sharks while educating the public about the predator’s importance. Over time, as the team reached milestones, its mission has evolved along with its experience. A decade ago, no one was able to safely and consistently catch, tag, and release great white sharks. “Our primary objective at the time was to capture a 4,000-pound female, do about 12 research projects on her in 15 minutes, and let her go alive,” Fischer said.

The team “cracked the code” to catch and release in 2007 and set off on a new objective: locate the great whites’ mating and birthing grounds.

Great whites don’t reach sexual maturity until they’re 26 and 33 years old for males and females, respectively. Until that time, the juvenile sharks hang around their birthplace, where they’re susceptible to getting caught in nets. By tracking females, Ocearch is able to pinpoint birthing sites, locate juveniles, and help protect them from nets until they’ve mature enough to swim out of danger. “When we discover the nurseries or birthing periods, we then have the capacity to know … we shouldn’t be gill-netting these waters during that time,” Fischer said.

The Ocearch goal in that regard is to allow commercial fisherman to operate and protect the sharks’ movement. These two forces need to work in harmony, said Fischer, to facilitate sustainability and a return to abundance.

The organization receives much of its funding from socially responsible corporate sponsors, but turned to Kickstarter to take the democratization of science and ocean exploration one step further. “As we began to open source things our community exploded,” Fischer said. “And we wanted to make a space that was by the people and for the people … Build an enterprise that goes beyond any one person to serve the oceans, scientists, sharks, and future generations.”

Fischer and his team realized that all those people consuming Ocearch’s open-source content may jump at the chance to help fund the expeditions. And they were right — nearly 1,500 pledged $154,702, which will help fund about half of this summer’s expedition around Long Island.

During that expedition, Fischer hopes to tag a shark pup or two in order to locate the nursery of the North Atlantic white shark and determine how they migrate through those waters. “From there, we’d have the data set to integrate with on-going commercial activities, so that the fisherman could provide food that people want to eat, but also know when the white sharks are moving through,” Fischer said. “Then we can balance that in an economic and conservation-oriented way.”

Fischer and the Ocearch crew will set off on the monthlong Long Island expedition in August.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: heat-powered watches, phone cases with reflexes

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Movies & TV

From premiere date to footage: Here's all we have on 'Game of Thrones' season 8

With the eighth and final season looming, Game of Thrones fever has officially become a pandemic. Our list of all the relevant news and rumors will help make the wait more bearable, if you don't mind spoilers.
Virtual Reality

Think virtual reality is just for games? These awesome apps will change your mind

Virtual reality isn't all about gaming. Swim with turtles, paint in 3D, and immerse yourself in some unique experiences the platform has to offer with our curated list of the best VR apps.
Home Theater

The seven best TVs you can buy right now, from budget to big screen

Looking for a new television? In an oversaturated market, buying power is at an all-time high, but you'll need to cut through the rough to find a diamond. We're here to help with our picks for the best TVs of 2019.
Emerging Tech

Want to know which drones are flying near you? There’s an app for that

Want to know what that mysterious drone buzzing over your head is up to? A new system developed by AirMap, Google Wing, and Kittyhawk.io could soon tell you -- via a map on your phone.
Emerging Tech

A Japanese hotel fires half its robot staff for being bad at their jobs

Japan’s oddball Henn na Hotel has fired half of its 243 robot staff. The reason? Because these labor-saving machines turned out to be causing way more problems than they were solving.
Emerging Tech

CERN plans to build a massive particle collider that dwarfs the LHC

CERN already has the world's biggest particle accelerator. Now it wants a bigger one. Meet the 9 billion euro Future Circular Collider that will allow physicists to extend their study of the universe and matter at the smallest level.
Emerging Tech

Forget fireworks. Japan will soon have artificial meteor showers on tap

Tokyo-based startup Astro Live Experiences is preparing to launch its first artificial meteor shower over Japan, serving as a showcase of its prowess in the space entertainment sector.
Cars

Robomart’s self-driving grocery store is like Amazon Go on wheels

Robomart's driverless vehicle is like an Amazon Go store on wheels, with sensors tracking what you grab from the shelves. If you don't want to shop online or visit the grocery store yourself, Robomart will bring the store to you.
Emerging Tech

Glowing space billboards could show ads in the night sky

Look up at the night sky in 2020 and you might see an ad for McDonald's floating among the stars. A Russian startup is working on a project that uses a constellation of small satellites in low-Earth orbit to create glowing ads.
Emerging Tech

New brainwave reader tells teachers if students are concentrating

Massachusetts-based startup BrainCo has developed brainwave-reading headbands which can reportedly help reveal if students are concentrating in class. Here's how they're being used.
Emerging Tech

Fears about kids’ screen use may have been overblown, Oxford researchers find

Many people take it as gospel that digital technologies are harmful to young people’s mental health. But is this true? A recent study from the University of Oxford takes a closer look.
Emerging Tech

Meet Wiliot, a battery-less Bluetooth chip that pulls power from thin air

A tiny chip from a semiconductor company called Wiliot could harvest energy out of thin air, the company claims. No battery needed. The paper-thin device pulls power from ambient radio frequencies like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cell signals.
Emerging Tech

Hexbot is a modular robot arm that does everything from drawing to playing chess

Who wouldn’t want their own personal robot arm to do everything from laser engraving to competing against you in a game of chess? That's what Hexbot, a new modular robot, promises to deliver.