SCIENCE & RESEARCH
Collaborative research across the Indo-Pacific
This project is grounded in partnerships between scientists, in-country experts and citizen scientists - the divers and fishers who photograph sharks and rays from across the Indo-Pacific. At its heart, SSIP aims to build a species checklist and status overview of sharks and rays for every country and territory in the Indo-Pacific. This is core science and information needed to manage and sustainably use sharks and rays. However, travel and research are expensive - it costs too much and would take too long to run survey expeditions in every country. Instead, the research team is working with citizen scientists and in-country partners to use the valuable data already recorded on their hard drives and SD cards - and in the local knowledge people carry around in their heads . . .
Approach and values
SharkSearch Indo-Pacific relies on collaboration with people across the Indo-Pacific. When working on our projects, we will work with the following values and approaches:
Honesty and transparency - we will explain what each research project involves, who is involved, what it hopes to achieve, and how information from contributors is intended to be used. We will also clearly acknowledge the contribution and input of others to our projects.
Scientific excellence and data integrity - we will document and implement our Quality Control, data verification and review processes so that species records and information can be used appropriately and with confidence. Status overviews and scientific reports will be rigorously reviewed for publication in scientific journals.
Reciprocity for local people and partners - we will work with our in-country partners to help ensure that the data and information generated, and the processes involved, provide benefits to people across the Indo-Pacific including divers, fishers, local communities, fisheries and marine park managers, local scientists and conservation workers. Where possible, we will support capacity building and development efforts with local agencies, students and on-ground partners . Five percent of SSIP funding will be diverted to capacity building programs such as scholarships programs for Indo-Pacific students (e.g. the Bill Raynor scholarships).
Providing useful products - our vision is that SSIP information and outputs will be useful for Indo-Pacific Peoples, for example, by reducing the reporting burdens of government agencies by providing the information they need to meet reporting requirements for obligations such as the Convention on Biological Diversity. We will be receptive and responsive to local partners and research end-users to help ensure that we are delivering useful products that help people in-country.
Recognising complexity - we understand that environmental research and sustainability are complicated, and that sharks, rays, marine resources and people sit within complex Social Ecological Systems. SSIP will use multi-disciplinary teams and explore approaches such as Human-Centred Design to help us deliver meaningful projects tailored to specific needs and situations.
Openness and accessibility - wherever possible we will endeavor to make the data and information generated by Shark Search Indo-Pacific freely available for download and use, and will present the information in ways that are accessible to local communities. Any scientific papers will be made Open Access so that they are freely available to anyone in the world.
How our checklists are made - and 'checked'
Shark Search Indo-Pacific checklists are developed using a standardized method to ensure that species checklists are quality controlled, and are reliable and scientifically accurate.
Before a checklist is started, on-ground experts, diving and
fishing contacts, and fisheries and marine managers from the
country are contacted to develop collaborations.
With guidance from In-country Partners, information is assembled
from a wide range of sources to produce a draft checklist. The
draft is accompanied by an overview of each shark and ray's
extinction risk according to the IUCN Red List, the impacts facing
them in that location, and the current management in place.
The dive community is also engaged to provide photographs from the
region of interest to provide photographic verification of records.
Species lists and taxonomic descriptions are verified by taxonomists, and
reference material from museums is checked.
Our confidence in the occurrence of each species in each country is explicitly stated, ranging from "Confirmed" and "Provisionally Confirmed" to "Unlikely" using specific criteria.
The draft checklist and overview are then reviewed by In-country Partners.
Once the review is complete, the checklist and accompanying synthesis are sent to a scientific journal for a second round of checking and review.
Checklists are mostly compiled by postgraduate students at James Cook University with close supervision and guidance from the research team, with verification by in-country experts and taxonomists.
Please note that Shark Search is logging diversity, it is NOT about counting sharks or monitoring numbers. Once we have a photo of a species from a country, we may not need more photos of the same species. However, there are lots of opportunities for citizen scientists to get involved with other efforts to monitor sharks such as the Great Fiji Shark Count (for Fiji) and Shark Base (Global).
A long term research program
Shark Search Indo-Pacific is starting small, but has a long-term vision for shark and ray research, conservation and management across the Indo-Pacific. We aim to have a series of partnerships and a suite of projects rolled out by the year 2030.
Shark Search Indo-Pacific is starting with checklist projects for each country, working on lists for Fiji, French Polynesia, the Cook Islands and the Hawaiian Islands in 2017.
We are also collecting photographs of blue spotted lagoon rays to help taxonomists classify these species.