While Bill Gates continues his fight against diseases including Polio, another founder of Microsoft has a different fight on his mind. Between discovering one of the world's largest battleships off the Philippines, Paul Allen is fighting to save the humble shark.
In an initiative called Global FinPrint, Allen and his company called Vulcan plan to study sharks and rays that inhabit coral reefs around the world. This three-year study is led by Dr. Demian Chapman of Stony Brook University, Long Island, New York.
The team will set "baited remote underwater video (BRUVs)" in over 400 locations around the world. Using these devices, they will observe and count the numbers of shark visiting those locations. As noted over on GeekWire, the group will be covering reef systems in the Indo-Pacific, tropical western Atlantic, southern and eastern Africa and Indian Ocean islands.
According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, about one-quarter of the world’s sharks, rays and skates are threatened with extinction. However, we currently lack knowledge about these keystone species. This project is designed to fill in the gaps in that knowledge. It is hoped that the findings of this research will produce the “first standardized survey of shark, ray and skates in coral reef environments.”
Vulcan will provide the open-access database platform that will allow researchers to share and use the information to better understand and protect shark habitats. This research is important, ocean health and marine ecosystems depend on these species.
Global FinPrint will allow researchers to understand what happens when sharks are removed from a fragile marine ecosystem. It will also look at how sharks affect the recovery of reef systems after hurricanes or disturbances like coral bleaching. Coral reefs are a source of food security, encourage tourism and provide coastal protection in many countries around the world.