“My research is aimed at creating a more complete understanding of sharks and how our interactions with them have changed over time,” Dr Huveneers says in Flinders University’s 50th anniversary publication The Investigator Transformed.
A global preoccupation with beaches and coastal experiences brings many people into the aquatic domain of sharks on a regular basis – increasing the importance of better understanding sharks and how we can coexist with them.
“The white shark cage-diving is being increasingly scrutinised and our research, along with work from state and federal organisations, is providing scientific information to the Government to minimise the effect of this industry, ensuring the long-term sustainability of this activity, while improving our understanding of the ecology and biology of white sharks,” the Flinders University senior lecturer says.
White sharks were first listed as a vulnerable species by South Africa in 1991, but it is unclear how their population is changing, and work is now underway to estimate how many may be left in the wild and whether populations are recovering.
“We work in collaboration with cage-diving operators, study their behaviour and tag them with a range of electronic devices to monitor their fine-scale movements and residency,” Dr Huveneers says.
“This information is helping us to build up a more accurate picture of the behaviour of white sharks and collect information to help manage the cage-diving industry.”
His latest research venture, titled The Secret Lives of Sharks, is a crowdfunded research project which will further investigate the effects of shark cage-diving on the behaviour of white sharks near South Australia’s Neptune Islands, the only location where white shark cage-diving takes place in Australia.
Dr Huveneer, who leads the Southern Shark Ecology Group, will use the latest underwater monitoring equipment to investigate white shark feeding and other behaviours.
One supporter of the fundraising will get the opportunity to join him for a three-day trip to the Neptune Islands, where they can see his research first-hand – and get up close and personal with some of South Australia’s white sharks (also known as great white sharks).
“Thanks to this state-of-the-art equipment, we will better understand the predatory behaviour of white sharks and how they hunt seals or fish while at the Neptune Islands, and how the shark activity relates to the cage-diving industry,” Dr Huveneers says.
“Recent research has shown that the residency and fine-scale swimming behaviour of white shark can be affected by cage-diving tourism.
“This new research project is an incredibly unusual opportunity to discover if those changes are positive, neutral, or negative at an individual or population level for sharks.
“We will record the activity of white sharks and determine their predatory/feeding strategy at the Neptune Islands, compare the activity of white sharks when cage-diving operators are present and absent, and assess any changes observed.
“Our activity package includes a video camera that will film similar videos to those created by world-class media organisations like National Geographic.
“This will allow us to record the activity and movement of the sharks in relation to their behaviour as shown by the footage taken from the shark’s perspective.”
To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Flinders University will feature regular profiles of some of the outstanding researchers, academics, graduates and inspirational stories from The Investigator Transformed book on InDaily. Many of them have helped to reshape local, national and global communities in their diverse and varied fields of excellence.
The dynamic new pictorial book can be purchased online for $29.95 (RRP).
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