In one of the most ambitious projects of its kind, a Texas A&M University at Galveston researcher hopes to tag as many as 50 sharks in the Gulf of Mexico to learn more about their feeding habits and behavior.
David Wells, assistant professor of marine biology on the Texas A&M-Galveston campus, and several graduate students will spend the next 20 days attaching tags to sharks they or others have caught, using satellite technology to record the movements of each tagged shark.
Although there are dozens of types of sharks in the Gulf, Wells and his research team will focus on three: the hammerhead, tiger and mako shark.
"There are still a lot of things we don't know about sharks in the Gulf," Wells explains.
"Our research will try to determine where these sharks tend to migrate, their movements and behavior patterns and their feeding habits. Each tagged shark will have a sensor on it that will relay back to us the critical data we need to study them."
Wells says the team expects to tag at least 30 sharks on the trip, which lasts from Oct. 10-30, and possibly as many as 50 to get as large a sample base as possible.
The team will travel in several areas of the Gulf, such as near Corpus Christi and Brownsville, and will eventually move near the upper Texas coast and go as far east as the New Orleans area.
Most of the tagging will be done in waters at least 100 miles from the coast.
Other research groups involved in the project are the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, the Mote Marine Lab and the University of North Florida.
Wells said it could take up to two years to complete the project and analyze the data.
The project is funded by OCEARCH, an organization devoted to studying marine life, and the team will travel on its research vessel, the M/V OCEARCH.
This article was originally published by Texas A&M University-Galveston.
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