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RTE Living the Wildlife

Saturday, 08 March 2014 11:19
Colin Staford Johnson discusses the new CATS device
with E. Johnston while filming off Malin Head
Colin Staford Johnson discusses the new CATS device<br>with E. Johnston while filming off Malin Head
(c) P. Mayo 2013

An RTE series on Ireland’s wildlife will feature the basking shark research undertaken off Malin head in 2013. The program which will air on April 1stwas filmed and recorded by Colin Stafford Johnson and his team for GMarsh TV and RTE. It is set to demonstrate some of the research techniques and methods that the Irish basking shark team have been developing for the study of basking sharks in coastal waters.

In 2013 the basking shark study group with their Malin head partners Queens University Belfast and Inishowen Development Partnership teamed up with a group of scientists called ‘Customised Animal Tracking Solutions’ or CATS. CATS specialise in developing technological solutions for research teams studying wild animals, and in particular marine species. They have previously worked on the Ningaloo Reef, Australia Whale Shark project and the Great White Shark project off South Africa.

In previous years the Malin head based research team have used proven technologies from companies such as Wildlife Computers USA and CEFAS UK to track basking sharks and investigate what drives their behaviour when in coastal waters. In 2013 the work undertaken with CATS was a departure into a new world of investigative study with the deployment of HD video cameras and accelerometers on the sharks. This had never been attempted before anywhere in the world and the team were nervous about experimenting with the new devices. Coordinator of the research project Emmett Johnston said “CATS had to develop the whole device from scratch based on our request and species experience. Everything including the material for the housing of the device, what environmental parameters we would like to be included, how it would be attached and then retrieved was all decided by our team at Queens University Belfast and CATS. It was a mammoth task for everyone involved and special thanks should go to Jonathan Houghton of the Biological Sciences School in QUB who was the one to make it happen”.

The research group hope the results from a number of successful deployments will help them understand the energy budgets of the sharks and in time help marine biologists understand the habitat requirements of free living marine animals better.  You can read about our various projects in the Surveys section of our website.