Marine biologist Barbara Block presented new research about white shark migration during a special event co-hosted by the Monterey Bay Stanford Club and Santa Catalina School on October 1. Before a crowd of about 300 students, families, and Stanford alumni, Block for the first time publicly shared the results of a major expedition her team took last year to a patch of open water in the Pacific Ocean called the White Shark Café.
Block, a principal researcher at Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, has been tagging sharks for about 25 years. Her team noticed that the sharks migrate every year from Monterey Bay—where they forage in the fall and winter—to the Café, located about halfway between Mexico and Hawaii. The question was, why?
The researchers, including scientists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, ventured out to this region in spring 2018. In a "white shark treasure hunt," they collected tags that had been programmed to pop off the sharks when the team arrived. These tags provided a wealth of new information about the sharks' behavior and the physical attributes of the ocean.
In her presentation, Block talked about the expedition, the data they collected, the other creatures they found swimming below the surface, and the technology they used to aid their research, including DNA sequencing from water samples that let them know whether sharks were present. In addition to just learning more about why the sharks make the voyage, Block said one of the goals of the research is to potentially carve out the Café as a marine protected area.
Earlier in the day, Block spoke to seniors in Catalina's Marine Ecology Research Program about how she first got interested in studying sharks and tuna (she was fascinated by fish that could keep themselves warm), about advances in tagging, and about how much we still don't know about our oceans. If the students decide to continue in marine science, she said, "there will be plenty to do."