Many scientists rely on tissue samples to do their work, but getting hold of them is time-consuming and expensive. With Shark Share Global, researchers will have access to an online database of samples from sharks and rays around the world.
The overall aim of this project is to (1) increase the efficiency of global shark sampling and research by maximising the use of tissue samples, and (2) help foster meaningful collaborations between scientists allowing for the expansion of projects to a global scale.
To adequately conserve and manage species, basic biological demographics are required. Such information can be obtained through scientific observation, and non-invasive and invasive sampling techniques. Considering that almost half of the known elasmobranch species are defined as Data Deficient by the IUCN and another 30% are considered Threatened or Near Threatened, efficient sampling and research of these species is paramount, including maximising sample utilisation where possible.
Additionally, research is a costly process, further complicated by investigation of rare, critically endangered species. Commonly, whole animal samples are taken and subsequently under-utilised, as lab groups may not have expertise in different elasmobranch research fields. This means important opportunities are being missed. Shark Share Global aims to address these issues.
Elasmobranch research seeks to overcome tremendous knowledge gaps in fields ranging from basic life history characterisation, habitat utilisation, conservation risks, population connectivity, and individual and population genetics to physiology, toxin accumulation and basic morphology. However, such efforts are curtailed by limited budgets, limited geographic scope and sample availability. It has become clear that ‘communication, collaboration and efficient use of samples will become crucial components of successful shark research’, as explained by Michelle Heupel and Colin Simpfendorfer (2010).
Shark Share Global was started with two goals in mind: (1) to increase the efficiency of shark and ray sampling, and (2) to foster meaningful international collaborations between researchers. We propose the simple idea of establishing an online database that facilitates researchers informing the wider scientific community of tissues available for research use. The Shark Share database offers a unique opportunity to revolutionise elasmobranch sampling and collaborative efforts by moving to an online platform that is available globally.
Financing from the SOSF will go directly towards the creation of the Shark Share Global database. This will be achieved by working with database consultants based in Brisbane, Australia.
Tanja is learning where the flapper skate moves along the last vestiges of its home range on the Scottish west coast and trying to understand how this affects its genetic diversity. To find out how its declining populations can survive, she is introducing the paternity test to the shark world and exploring whether mating partners, siblings or whole clans are commonly in the same area or if they can be found in different places.
Building a generation of critical thinkers and fostering a sense of connection are what Anshena’s work at the Cape Eleuthera Island School in The Bahamas is all about. By challenging children to seek out the answers to their questions themselves and enabling them to visit important marine ecosystems, Anshena is encouraging new advocates for the environment and empowering them to make changes in their world.
South Africa is home to an assortment of highly charismatic catshark species, 14 of which occur nowhere else in the world. These greedy little sharks are often caught as by-catch, which makes them very vulnerable. Lisa is enlisting the help of the local diving community to learn more about them and how to protect them.