IUSB physics professors Ilan Levine and Brian Davis, in coordination with emeritus biology professor Peter Bushnell, have established a broad collaboration with three different teams of marine biologists in an effort to reduce shark bycatch – the inadvertent catching of sharks – in commercial fishing operations.
Notably, sharks have an organ which detects electric fields, and Davis and Levine have designed low-cost electric-field generating devices to deter sharks from fish hooks, which they refer to as “shark ticklers.” Preliminary controlled tests have been quite encouraging regarding their effectiveness, and Levine and Davis have been working with IUSB physics and biology students to assemble the ticklers at IUSB for ocean deployment with their collaborators. Thus far, the IUSB team has fabricated roughly 1,000 devices for field-based efficacy testing. They have already won external funding from NOAA to support this work, and they hope to expand the scope with new grant submissions underway.
Below is a picture of biology major Tori Hartl on-site for a field deployment of the shark ticklers in the Outer Banks, North Carolina, and a picture of Tori with physics major Seamus Cash by a large collection of the devices nearing final assembly. Other students involved in this work include physics majors Cosmo Cripe, Phillip Derrickson and Nicholas Good.