Year 11 Science Extension"Shark Spy" Programme

Monday 12th April 2021

In 2020, one of our year 10 classes was given the opportunity to spend the day out on the University of Otago's research vessel, Polaris II. Unfortunately along came Covid and the trip was canceled. At the beginning of 2021, I was contacted by Rob Lewis, of the University of Otago's New Zealand Marine Studies Centre, wanting to know if we would still be keen. Luckily the majority of the boys from the year 10 class opted into this year's Yr 11 extension class. The purpose of the trip was to take part in a shark survey off the Otago coast as well as investigating the biodiversity and health of our coastal waters. 

So, Murphy's Law, 4 days out from the trip we went back into Level 2 and the trip looks in doubt. Fortunately, under Level 2 restrictions the trip was allowed to proceed as long as masks were worn. 

The Polaris II is moored at the University Marine Centre in Portobello. After a very pleasant early morning trip on the harbour to Taiaroa head, we headed out to set 5 survey sites. This involved lowering bait stations to the bottom that have go-pro cameras attached to film any sharks that are attracted. The sites were placed in 10 - 15 metres of water, from Taiaroa Head, up the coast, finishing at Blueskin Bay. 

On the return trip, we also did a bottom dredge to examine the biodiversity of the benthic zone. The boys thoroughly enjoyed the experience of doing real science in the field. The highlight of the trip for many was the pod of Hectors Dolphins that kept us company throughout the trip. 

The trip concluded with a visit to the cliffs below the albatross colony to check out the fur seal nursery, where mother seals teach their pups to swim in the relative safety of the large rock pools found here. 

Two weeks later Rob came to JMC with the footage of the cameras we had set. Along the transect we managed to film about 1/2 dozen seven gill sharks ranging form about 1 - 1.5 metres in length and one quite large "shadow" that wasn't able to be identified. This was an awesome opportunity for our students to experience and it is hoped we will continue to be involved with this "Shark Spy" initiative in the future. 

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