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Developing The Great White App: NZ’s first interactive shark tracker

Photo of the Great White App. Visitors can see the location of sharks around New Zealand, and then choose a shark to learn its age, characteristics and location history. | Photo: The Dream Factory

Photo of the Great White App. Visitors can see the location of sharks around New Zealand, and then choose a shark to learn its age, characteristics and location history. | Photo: The Dream Factory

The Dream Factory has recently launched V1 of the Great White App - a project facilitated by the Sustainable Ocean Society and backed by the New Zealand public.

The Great White App is the brainchild of marine biologist Dr. Riley Elliott, PhD. This web based application lets you track Great White Sharks throughout New Zealand. People have the ability to “Sponsor a Shark”, allowing you to name a shark while also funding the tagging and research expenses associated with the project.

The app takes a two-pronged approach. For the general public it’s an interactive tool encouraging responsible decisions at sea, education on shark behaviour and respectful coexistence between people and sharks. Behind the scenes, it provides Dr. Elliott with valuable scientific info on movements and behaviours of Great White sharks, aiding in their conservation.

Having been in talks with Dr. Elliott since 2021 and then planning and developing the project through last year, it has been great having the opportunity to participate, tackle some unique challenges and finally see the project through to its launch in December '22.

Photo of Riley Elliott with a blue shark | Photo: Amber Jones

Photo of Riley Elliott with a blue shark | Photo: Amber Jones

How it all started

With an uptick in shark sightings across NZ, I reached out to Dr. Elliott in December 2021 to see how we could effectively communicate scientific, accurate information about sharks to the general public.

What started as a casual chat - two blokes yarning about a shark awareness website quickly shifted to "How can we develop a shark map?".

At the start of 2021 Dr. Riley Elliott applied for a permit to tag and study Great White Sharks throughout New Zealand. As Elliott's permit was nearing approval in 2022 research commenced surrounding how we could make the Great White App a reality.

Long term, large scale information on Great Whites

During R&D I discovered an animal conservation software known as EarthRanger. EarthRanger collects animal tracking data to help ecologists and wildlife biologists make informed decisions surrounding animal conservation.

Combining satellite tagging with the EarthRanger platform allows us to gather long term, large scale information on all sharks tagged - whether a shark migrates to Stewart Island or across the Pacific; whether it happens today or in 5 years!

Integrating a conservation tool into the Great White App aids Dr. Elliott's mission to gather data, both past and present to understand migration patterns, movements and behaviours of Great Whites throughout New Zealand. Having this data helps to improve conservation efforts going into the future.

Often used for land-based applications, The Great White App is the first instance of marine-based wildlife monitoring within EarthRanger, alongside being the first public application of shark tracking in New Zealand.

Developing the Great White App has been amazing

From where we started in '21 through to developing and finally launching the app last December... it’s still a little surreal.

It has been amazing seeing the response from the public. It brings me so much joy to see people getting into the app, having fun and maybe learning something new... Not to mention the support! Beyond developing the map, there is a tremendous amount of work that goes into obtaining a permit and attaining the funds, means and ways to get out there and tag the sharks. A map isn’t possible without tags, so a massive thanks to the public and all sponsors that have helped make this happen.

We're excited to continue supporting development of the Great White App in 2023, stay tuned for more updates!

To check out the map or sponsor a shark of your own, visit http://www.sustainableoceansociety.co.nz/ to learn more.



 

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