Swimming in the ocean on a hot summer day is the picture of relaxation for beach lovers. Just thinking about the ocean conjures memories of the sound of the waves, the smell of salt from the ocean, and the feel of sand between toes. One thing no one at the beach wants to hear is: “Shark!” Any dark shape in the water immediately becomes a deadly threat, causing people to run for the hills. Researchers from Australia believe that more times than not, those dark shapes beneath the water are misidentified.
Brendan Kelaher, a professor at Southern Cross University, and his team brought in drone technology to monitor beaches in New South Wales (NSW). They analyzed tons of footage to gain a better understanding of what types of marine animals actually lived in the area and would frequent the shores.
Kelaher partnered with Southern Cross University’s National Marine Science Centre and the NSW Department of Primary Industries for 3 years to conduct their research. Their findings were enlightening, bringing new statistics to light that might just calm the most nervous of beach goers.
“Our extensive data suggests it is up to 135 times more likely to be a dolphin than a shark,” says Kelaher. While this news is certainly comforting, if you are ever feeling uneasy about something in the water, it’s best just to play it safe and exit the water. Kelaher continues to say, “We do see potentially dangerous sharks in the shallows, but our data show they are much less common than people would have you believe.”
Throughout the research, the team at Southern Cross University were able to identify, “fevers of rays exceeding 100 animals, whales feeding on bait balls in the shallows, and incredible chases between sharks, rays, and dolphins,” according to Kelaher.
The drones proved a significant asset to the research, giving researchers rare glimpses that they otherwise might not have seen. Kelaher was quick to point out that drones have the potential to be valuable tools for gathering ecological information to sustain beach ecosystems.
Not only are drones monitoring the marine life, but some beaches in Australia have adopted the use of them to keep swimmers safe. The drones give lifeguards an extra eye in the sky and can even deploy flotation devices to swimmers from the air.
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