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Florida Keys sharks – catching and tagging them for science

For scientist Neil Hammerschlag, it was just another Sunday. He was out cruising the reefs near the Florida Keys, hunting for sharks — not as trophies, but for research aimed at keeping them out of display cases and in the water. In many places, these iconic predators are disappearing.

A research assistant professor at the University of Miami, and the director of its R. J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program, Hammerschlag spends every other weekend in southern Florida dragging baited, shark-safe lines behind a boat, hoping one of his research subjects will take a bite.

When he and his team catch one, they outfit the shark with either a satellite tag or an ID tag, take tiny samples of muscle and fin and a vial’s worth of blood (they check to see if the shark is pregnant), then send the shark on its  way. The whole process takes about five minutes.

Overall, many shark species are facing steep declines. Figuring out what is driving that trend, and reversing it, is a big motivation of Hammerschlag’s research. “We know a lot of shark populations are in trouble, but the question is, what is happening to Florida Keys sharks?” he said. “And if you want to be effective at conserving them, what would it take?”

via Science on MSNBC

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Little League – webcomic of DC superheroes as children in elementary school

Little League is an awesome web comic that imagines all of DC’s superheroes as kids. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman all spend their days walking home from school, playing at recess, and attempting to save the world.

It’s super funny and cute!

“Little League” is a side project of “Gifted” creator Yale Stewart. A weekly webcomic, it follows the adventures of popular DC comic characters as children in elementary school. Mostly funny, with a dash of pathos, it should be an enjoyable read for any fans of DC Comics characters as well as people who enjoy the traditional syndicated comic strip.

These are comics #20-21 and you can read all the old ones on the Little League website (I’ve already done so!).

 

Trying to foster a recovery in Basking Sharks – the 40-foot docile giants

An electronic ID tag from a rare shark spotted off the (San Diego) county coast in June has popped to the surface near Hawaii, providing local marine researchers with an unprecedented look into the long-distance movements of the second-largest known fish.

“I would characterize it as an avalanche of data,” said Van Sommeran said Monday.

Basking sharks have almost disappeared from the West Coast, but biologists at the National Marine Fisheries Service in La Jolla found two last year and outfitted them with satellite-based tracking devices in hopes of learning more about where they roam.

Agencies in Canada, Mexico and the United States are trying to safeguard basking sharks, which once gathered near the coastline by the hundreds or thousands. In recent years, however, sightings have dwindled and biologists have speculated that as few as 300 swim along the West Coast.

While basking sharks have gaping mouths and can grow up to 40 feet, they aren’t a threat to people. They are filter feeders that consume large volumes of zooplankton.

via Shark’s journey a first for science