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As part of the “Shark Summer” program to be launched this July and August at Birch Aquarium, Dr. Andy Nosal, the aquarium’s DeLaCour Fellow for Ecology & Conservation, is preparing to launch a weather balloon outfitted with video recording equipment to study the movement patterns of the leopard shark population off the La Jolla coast.

“Everything is ready to go and so we are just waiting for a couple of warm, sunny, and windless days,” Nosal tells the Reader.

Nosal says he’s observed as many as several hundred leopard sharks in the area, and is curious as to whether the sharks may be drawn to one another in a sort of social behavior, or if the site’s features, such as drifting cells of warm water are the primary attraction.

When launched, the camera will record for a full day with a field of view roughly 500 feet by 375 feet (about 4.3 acres). The area includes rocky reefs, areas of sand flats, and stretches to the Rose Canyon fault channel. At some point in the future, Nosal hopes that it may be possible to incorporate an infrared camera that would correlate water surface temperatures to shark movements.

We’ll follow up with Andy as he launches his research and reviews data throughout the summer.


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