Katharine Is Back

Katherine Is Back

Katharine is safe and well!!! On January 8, 2017 she sent a tweet from a location near West Palm Beach. Nobody had heard from Katharine since Nov 6, 2016 when she sent a tweet that gave her location as near the Florida/ Georgia state line. The earlier tweet had her fans in Florida excited. Katharine had spent some time close to Florida in 2013 and 2014 but did not show any interest in returning in 2015. It was starting to look like she was going to shun Florida for 2016 as well. Fans saw the November 6 tweet as a sign that they were back in favor with her, but then nothing. Rumors started maybe she was pregnant. Her fans love her, but they know she is a wild girl. Anything can happen when you just roam around.

The January 8 tweet created a media storm. Many of her over 48,000 twitter followers retweeted her post or made their own. Newspapers up and down the coast of Florida welcomed her back, with special stories and fond memories of her last visit. Television stations in the state also commented on her and showed clips of earlier videos. There were even mention of the event in the international press all welcoming Katherine the Great back.

If you do not have 48,000 plus twitter followers and the international press commenting on your twitter comments, you may be very jealous of Katharine the Great.

You see Katharine is a Great White Shark and on twitter is @Shark_Katharine.

Katharine is a part of a research project being conducted by the non-profit organization Ocearch.

On August 20, 2013, a Great White was spotted in shallow waters off Cape Cod. Using a rod and reel they were able to catch her and bring her alongside their research vessel M/V Ocearch. Once aboard the vessel, she was examined and a tracking tag attached before being released back into the water. The staff named her Katharine and she weighed in at 2,300 pounds and at 14 feet 2 inches long. Now every time that Katherine brings her dorsal fin to the surface, the tracking device pings a satellite and starts the process of uploading the data that has been collected. The date, time and GPS location is feed into a tracking program and a tweet is generated.

Ocearch does research on large predators including great white sharks. The research vessel is both an at-sea laboratory and a mother ship. The M/V Ocearch has a hydraulic platform rated at a 75,000lb. capacity to safely lift even mature sharks on board. Tenders locate sharks sometimes with the assistance of aircraft and catch them on a line and reef. The tender leads the captured shark to the M/V Ocearch and to the platform. The shark is maneuver onto their back and the platform lifted from the water. It is known that sharks placed on their backs will enter a sleep-like state. This will make the interaction safer for both the shark and the scientist. Water is run across the gills to ensure that the shark can keep breathing. The research team is multi-disciplined and has approximately 15 minutes to conduct up to 12 studies on a live shark. The shark is weighed and measured, blood and tissue samples are taken, an ultrasound on the females and a tracking tag inserted into the fin. Released sharks are hand walked back into the water. The readings from the tag show that the sharks are fully awake and active within minutes of being returned to the water. The sharks suffer no long term effects from the capture, while the tags provide researchers with data about the sharks movements, water temperature, and location among other data.

OCEARCH started their research with their first expedition to Guadalupe Islands in December 2007. Since then, they have completed 27 expeditions covering the major shark domains in the world. The last one was in Nantucket completed in October 2016. This was the third expedition to the Cape Cod area. The purpose of the trip was to increase the number of Great Whites tagged in the area to provide a better sampling group. The previous trips had tagged the Great White Sharks Mary Lee, Lydia, Betsy, Genie and our very own Katharine. (Yes I am among the 48,000+ twitter followers). Three more were tagged and the data from two of them, Grey Lady and Miss Costa, are in the tracking system and are ready for their own followers. The eight sharks will provide data for a study on North Atlantic Great Whites. The expedition included nine scientists from seven of the world’s leading marine institutes: Mote Marine Laboratory, University of North Florida, Adventure Aquarium, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Florida International University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and WCS’ New York Aquarium.

Ocearch is an open research project. The open research function means that anyone with an interest in the research can have access to the data in near real time. A citizen scientist will have the same access to data as researchers at the major marine institutions. A high school student can have the same data as a PHD candidate to help prepare a paper. More than 20 institutions frequently use Ocearch’s data and it has helped over 50 researchers complete peer review papers.

Outside of academia, the research has other uses. The data has been used to support environmental issues and fishery policies. The data is also used to support elementary school education. The STEM Education Curriculum, developed by Landry, has been launched for grades k-8. Elements of that are based on the Global Shark Tracker and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

There is one point about the media storm about our Katharine the Great that is very important. The thousands of people who read her tweets and follow her movements are learning that they are not the killing machines out after humans that television and movies show us. She spends time along the coast often in very close to shore, however, there are no attacks. Florida has the highest number of shark attacks in the world, but not by great whites. The people of Florida are welcoming her, not hiding away in fear.

I hope we get a chance to see her and see how much she is grown. She is becoming a grown up and maybe starting her own family.