Author Archive

Take Action to Help Save Manta Rays with the Manta Trust

Thursday, December 10th, 2015
Manta Ray Underwater

In search of a worthy cause? Here’s how you can help save manta rays.



Mission: Creating a sustainable future for manta rays through conservation research, awareness and education

HQ: Dorchester, United Kingdom

Founded: 2011


Project: The Manta Trust uses a multidisciplinary approach to conduct worldwide research of manta rays and their habitat to make conservation practices more effective and to educate the public and community.



Using a program called IDtheManta, researchers can identify mantas using the spots on their undersides, which are as unique as fingerprints. You can submit your own images via the Manta Trust website or by emailing them to

Get Your Fins Wet

The Manta Trust has ongoing projects around the globe, including in the Maldives, Palau, Fiji, Thailand, Hawaii and Mexico. Field volunteers collect vital ID information and environmental data but also engage with the community. Field volunteers must be 21 years or older and have an advanced open water certification. Positions are posted on the Manta Trust page.

Get Volun-Techy

Want to get involved, but can’t make the travel happen? You can also volunteer online and help ID rays from the Manta Trust’s database.

SnotBot Drone Used to Collect Whale Data Using “Snot”

Monday, November 9th, 2015
SnotBot, a drone that collects whale snot for research

Eliza Muirhead

The SnotBot is on a mission to silently hover over whales while collecting their snot for research.

There’s a new drone in town, and it’s nothing to sneeze at. OK — maybe that’s exactly what it is. Dubbed the SnotBot, this data-collecting drone was created by Ocean Alliance and Olin College of Engineering and is designed to catch the spray emitted from whales’ blowholes.

The mucus-rich “blow” provides scientists with a wealth of information, such as hormone levels (which can indicate if an animal is stressed or pregnant), evidence of infections (from bacteria, viruses or even environmental toxins) and tissue samples that can be used for DNA analysis.

Ocean Alliance is running a Kickstarter to fund SnotBot, with a little help from former Star Trek actor Sir Patrick Stewart, who has given his support to the new technology.

“I’m asking you to support my good friend Capt. Iain Kerr at Ocean Alliance in their quest for better, more effective, less invasive, innovative research that will give us answers to some of the mysteries about the ocean and particularly whales,” Stewart says in the video.

Traditionally the “snot” was obtained by leaning over the railing of a boat with a 10-foot pole while chasing down the whales. This approach to data collection is invasive and can put undue stress on the animals, which could influence the information retrieved. The SnotBot is designed to study these marine mammals without disturbing them.

“Imagine if everything your doctor knew about your health came from chasing you around a room with a large needle while blowing an air horn,” the SnotBot team says on its Kickstarter page.

SnotBot will hover quietly above the whales and passively collect snot, using spongelike pads as the whales go about their business undisturbed — no chasing, prodding or other stress-inducing activities required.

Research projects of this nature require certain permissions, so Ocean Alliance is seeking approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Marine Fisheries Service for its expeditions later this year.

SnotBots will be used to gather data on whales in three locations: Patagonia, the Sea of Cortez and Frederick Sound, Alaska. Researchers hope to collect snot from previously studied individuals in order to compare the SnotBot’s data to older data collected via traditional methods.


Banned in 1986, commercial whaling took a serious toll on whale populations through the years. Although few countries still engage in the activity, its lasting damage has already been done — leaving most whale populations reduced in size by 90 percent or more.

The result of this dramatic loss is that dwindling whale populations were left vulnerable to an ever-increasing throng of anthropogenic threats. Whale fatalities via boat collisions, ingesting plastic pollution, exposure to environmental toxins and entanglement in fishing gear are impacts that a prewhaling population could have shrugged off, but now they can put an entire species as risk.

Ocean Alliance is working to gather new data to better understand how these stressors are affecting whales and what we can do to help them — and SnotBot might help reach that goal.

Dive Operators Use Music, Not Chum, To Attract Great White Sharks

Sunday, November 1st, 2015
Great White Shark Next to Cage and Scuba Divers


Metalhead Sharks

Could great white sharks be attracted to rock music?

Humans might not be the only ones head-banging to heavy metal — sharks might enjoy the jams too.

While filming the documentary Bride of Jaws, part of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, the film crew was searching for a 16-foot great white shark known as Joan Of Shark. Matt Waller, owner of Australian dive operator Adventure Bay Charters, suggested playing heavy-metal music through an underwater speaker in order to attract the shark to their location. Much to the documentary team’s surprise, it worked. Although they didn’t find the giant they’d set out for, two large great whites soon appeared to investigate the music of Darkest Hour, a metal band out of Washington, D.C.

Waller developed this attraction technique in 2011. Tales of music altering shark behavior in Isla Guadalupe inspired him to mount underwater speakers to his shark cages, and he discovered that he could attract sharks by blasting classic hits such as AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “Back in Black.” He also noted that the sharks behaved differently while music was playing; they became more inquisitive, sometimes rubbing their faces against the speaker.

Waller doesn’t consider himself a shark expert, but he believes that the thick tones used in heavy metal, such as vocalists’ “death growls,” intense drum beats and guitar riffs, mimic the low-frequency noises created by injured fish. Sharks sense the fish frequencies with their lateral line, a sensory organ that runs along the length of their bodies that detects vibrations and changes in pressure. There haven’t been any scientific studies to prove this theory, so it’s possible that sharks just enjoy the chance to rock out.

Craving More Shark Tales? We’ve Got You Covered

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Video: Diving Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

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Map of the Gardens of the Queen - Cuba

Google Maps

Jardines de la Reina
The 90-mile arc of mangroves and keys along Cuba’s southeastern coast encompasses an 850-square-mile no-take marine reserve.

Cuba is a dream destination for many divers, and this video highlights the country’s beautiful dive sites in Jardines de la Reina, or Gardens of the Queen. This area is part of an 850-square-mile no-take marine reserve and is home to a huge variety of marine life including plenty of sharks, grouper, and crocodiles. The Gardens of the Queen is earning quite the reputation for the large number of sharks that can be found swimming within its pristine waters.

Ready to dive the Gardens of the Queen and take this trip yourself? Click here for trip and travel information on scuba diving Cuba.