Shark Week: A New App That Lets You Track Great Whites

Want to stalk great white sharks in real time? There's an app for that.

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Kip Evans courtesy of Stanford University

The Shark Net app lets you examine the great whites it tracks up close.

Great white sharks are known for stalking their prey. But if you’d like to stalk them instead, there is a new free app for your iPad and iPhone to help you do it. “Shark Net” lets you see whenever a tagged great white swims within 1,000 feet of a series of detection buoys off the coast of California. Scientists have also deployed a solar-powered underwater robot off the coast near San Francisco that will cruise the great whites’ favorite hot spots to see which sharks are around.

(VIDEO: How to Tag a Shark)

The app was created by Stanford University scientists in the hope of increasing people’s awareness of the oceans. “We’re hoping people will personally connect with these animals and what’s going on off-shore,” Randall Kochevar, a marine biologist at Stanford, told TIME.

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The app allows people to monitor and learn about great whites researchers have been studying for years, including ‘Bite Head’, “Mr. Burns’, and ‘Chomp’. There are photos and even a 3-d model of each shark, so users can explore their distinct scars and dorsal fin patterns. Users can even sign up for alerts that will let them know when a buoy detects a specific shark. In addition to tracking the sharks in real time, the app provides historical data on sharks, so users can see the routes they’ve travelled over time.

In the future, the scientists, headed up by Stanford professor Barbara Block, hope to expand the tagging program to incorporate other animals such as elephant seals and mako sharks.

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The app is designed to get people interested in the wealth of wildlife living just off the coast of California. But Dr. Kochevar hasn’t ruled out the possibility that surfers may turn to the app as well, to avoid getting near the magnificent predators. “I suspect that we’ll have some interest from that community,” he says.

The Stanford scientists’ work and the sharks they study will be featured in the show “Great White Highway” which premiers Thursday night at 9 p.m. on the Discovery Channel as part of its Shark Week programming.

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