Friday, October 27, 2017

Following the Movement of Life: Tagging Sharks and Rays

by Cosette Larash (Smithsonian Environmental Research Center) and Claire Mueller (Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute):

For the last three years, a team of biologists from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center has been tracking stingrays, sharks and other species along the East coast of the United States. Matt Ogburn and Charles Bangley are leading the project, in an effort to learn more about these charismatic yet often misunderstood animals. It’s part of the Movement of Life Initiative, a developing program in animal tracking research conducted by Smithsonian Institution researchers and their colleagues.

Ogburn and Bangley are focusing on five species: Cownose Rays and four major species of sharks (Bull Sharks, Blacktip Sharks, Dusky Sharks, and Smooth Dogfish). They began tagging cownose rays in 2014, and added on sharks in 2016. By understanding the movement patterns of these animals, the Smithsonian biologists and their colleagues hope to unlock some of the mystery that surrounds them. For example, scientists know Cownose Rays are born in the Chesapeake Bay and return when they’re about four years old, but no one knows where they go in the meantime. The sharks they are studying all occupy similar areas, but use underwater habitats differently. By learning how and where these organisms move, they can understand their environment as well.
In the future, the scientists hope to use the data to uncover when and why these species occupy different areas, and determine the potential impact of human activities such as fisheries and offshore wind farms. Check out the videos above and below to learn more about these projects.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Change is in the air

As the cool breezes of fall blow into the Chesapeake region, I'm excited for the changing seasons and for upcoming changes to the Blue Crab Blog. You've probably noticed my posts have slowed down a lot in the last year. After considering shutting down the blog entirely, I've decided to shift away from a sole focus on blue crabs to the broader range of fisheries and marine conservation topics I'm now working on. You'll still find a good bit of blue crab news here, but also posts on sharks and rays, river herring, oysters, biodiversity, and long-term studies of coastal ecosystems. My goal is to produce at least one new blog post at the beginning of each month, with additional news items sprinkled in here and there. The first post is nearly ready and will highlight shark and ray research at Smithsonian. I hope you like the changes and keep coming back!

-Matt Ogburn