Tracking Sharks: Real-Time Data From an Underwater Robot

Written by on October 18, 2012 in Marine Life, Technology

For the first time, researchers are tracking sharks and receiving real-time data about their location.

Sand tiger shark. Photo credit Whitfield, NOAA.

Sand tiger shark. Photo credit Whitfield, NOAA.

The researchers from University of Delaware (UD) are using an underwater robot to find sand tiger sharksCarcharias taurus, that they previously tagged.  The robot, OTIS, is a remote-controlled, yellow glider that can follow the tiger sharks and provide real-time data.

“In the past week our new, specially equipped glider OTIS – which stands for Oceanographic Telemetry Identification Sensor – detected multiple sand tiger sharks off the coast of Maryland that were tagged over the past several years,” said Matthew Oliver, assistant professor of oceanography in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.

OTIS is normally used to collect water samples, but Oliver added acoustic receivers that allow it to recognize the sharks’ transmitters.  OTIS can also change courses to follow different sharks and test the surrounding waters.

“Sand tigers have suffered from a number of threats that ultimately led to population declines,” explained Dewayne Fox from Delaware State. “In 1997 sand tigers were listed as a ‘species of concern’ by the National Marine Fisheries Service, although very little is known of their migrations and habitat requirements.”

This new tracking method will allow scientists to learn where the sharks are going much more quickly than any other method.  The water samples collected by OTIS will also help scientists learn what kinds of conditions the sand tigers prefer to swim in during their migrations.

OTIS can last for four weeks before needing a battery recharge.  “We have at least another two weeks of battery,” Oliver said.  “We’ll see how it develops.”

So, check back in two weeks to find out what they learned!

Sand tiger shark. Photo credit NEFSC/NOAA.

Sand tiger shark. Photo credit NEFSC/NOAA.

To learn more:

Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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