Being located in the middle of the desert, marine biology is not the first thing associated with ASU. However, 200 miles from the nearest ocean, ASU is still making monumental advancements in shark conservation technology.
With nearly 73 million sharks killed annually for their fins, and 75% of shark species currently threatened with extinction, the protection of sharks is more crucial now than ever.
At ASU, The Sulikowski Shark and Fish Conservation Lab is led by James Sulikowski, a professor and associate director in the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences and senior Global Futures scientist. The lab takes a holistic approach to shark conservation and understanding their important role in the ocean.
"Without sharks, the ocean wouldn't be able to mitigate climate change. Our ecosystems would be out of balance," said Sulikowski.
"They help to keep the balance in an ecosystem, so keeping their prey in check. They also act as cleaners of their habitats, picking off any dead, dying or sick organisms that are in their environment," said Beckah Campbell, a Ph.D. candidate working with Sulikowski.
"In the past, most studies on shark reproduction have been done lethally, where animals had to be sacrificed in order to study how they reproduce," said Campbell.
Thus, the birth-alert tag, or BAT, was created to track a shark's pregnancy using nonlethal techniques.
"We developed that, along with things like underwater ultrasounds, topside ultrasounds (and) working with different companies in order to redefine and perfect them," said Sulikowski.
This combination of different technologies, like underwater ultrasounds, external satellite tags and the birth alert tag, allows Sulikowski and his team to understand where and when their sharks are giving birth.
"We know that she's pregnant with the ultrasounds, so that technology is great. We can put an external tag on her to track her movements and see where she goes. And the final piece of that puzzle was that birth tag, and finding out where she actually gives birth. So now we can protect mom," said Sulikowski.