Research Engagement and ImpactFlinders research from an undergraduate class to a record breaking swim attempt
What is the best way to understand and try to mitigate the risks of swimming all the way across the Pacific Ocean? Misinformation around shark attacks, one of the risks of long distance ocean swimming, is pervasive.
The best way is to seek out information from an expert in the area, which is exactly what Ben Lecomte’s international citizen science team did with Associate Professor Charlie Huveneers, leader of the Southern Shark Ecology Group, College of Science and Engineering.
Ben is currently undertaking ‘The Swim’ an extensive long distance swim across the Pacific Ocean. He and his team were concerned about managing shark attack risk during the swim. Coincidently, a member of his team is the sister of a Flinders undergraduate student enrolled in a topic taught by Charlie.
Charlie integrates his research and findings into his lectures enabling the student to share this knowledge with his sister. When Ben’s team discussed the risks of possible shark attack, she made the team aware of Charlie and his research and the US-based team got in touch. Charlie was able to advise on species likely to be sighted and whether they were potentially dangerous; and what devices have been scientifically proven to reduce the risk of shark attack.
“By helping Ben’s team to better understand the risk of shark attacks and how to mitigate those risks, I hope that others will learn that the risk of having a negative encounter with a shark is extremely small (even when spending many hours in the water every day), but that if risks need to be reduced, it is important to use devices that have been scientifically shown to reduce risks of being bitten,” said Charlie.
Charlie and his research were an integral part of an episode of "The Swim" - the digital series from leading online science publisher, Seeker that is capturing Lecomte's journey - ‘This is the Only Proven Way to Deter a Great White Shark’
This research was first released in May 2018 and within days the Western Australian government included the recommended deterrent to their personal shark deterrent rebate program.
In 1998, Ben became the first person to swim across the Atlantic Ocean in 73 days, raising funds for cancer research. In this new swim, he is raising awareness about the dangers of plastic pollution and its impact on the state of our oceans, while also taking samples and data, including dropping a hydrophone into the ocean each night to create the first sound postcard of the Pacific Ocean.
Seeker is a digital media network (youtube, facebook and their own website) that brings science, technology and culture stories to young audiences. Seeker originally was created as part of the Discovery, Inc. A feature length documentary on The Swim is planned to be released in 2019 in partnership with Nomadica Films.