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Underwater robot observes interaction of sharks and divers for graduating PhD researcher


Sharlene King
29 November 2013
Divers can affect the behaviour of grey nurse and leopard sharks at popular dive spots if they are not careful, according to a new study that used an underwater robot to monitor interactions between humans and the marine creatures.

Mateus Baronio will be awarded a Doctor of Philosophy for his thesis, ‘The use of a Micro Remotely Operated Vehicle as a tool for studies of shark behaviour and diver impact’, at the Southern Cross University graduation ceremonies on Saturday November 30.

“Human interaction could be reducing the sharks’ resting time and energy reserves which could impact their migration patterns and reproduction. This requires further research,” said Mateus.

The research was conducted at Byron Bay’s Julian Rocks and at Fish Rock near South West Rocks on the NSW Mid North Coast, and focused on the grey nurse and leopard species which are popular with divers.

Mateus said grey nurse and leopards pumped water through their gills so, unlike most shark species, don’t need to swim constantly to breath.

“We observed that when divers weren’t present the sharks didn’t move. They were hovering in a group, mid-water, facing the current, as if resting,” said the Brazilian born marine scientist.

At night the sharks moved away to feed before returning in the morning.