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Long Island researchers embarking on first-of-its-kind shark study

Stony Brook scientists investigating local shark activity
Stony Brook scientists investigating local shark activity 02:14

STONY BROOK, N.Y. -- With waters getting increasingly warmer, schools of bait fish came closer to Long Island shores over the summer, and Stony Brook scientists are now investigating which sharks are following the food.

Sharks come in all sizes and varieties. Each seems to get a bad rap, but all are vital to our ocean's ecosystem.

"We're dealing with a pretty controversial area," said Stony Brook University Professor Oliver Shipley. "One of the things that we really lack in New York is robust historical information on shark abundance, shark diversity and where these animals typically frequent the coastline."

Shipley and a team of colleagues at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences want to get rid of fear and find the truth as they embark on a first-of-its-kind study of shark biology and movement off Long Island.

Why, in the past year alone, are we seeing dozens of sightings and shark attacks?

"Social media plays a big part of it. There's more drones and people with cameras at the beach seeing the sharks," Stony Brook University Professor Michael Frisk said.

Our waters are cleaner and bait fish coming closer to shore, but why the increase in bites?

"We've had encounters with sharks and people, and 99 percent of the time, it's mistaken identity," said Theodore Tilkin, assistant curator at the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead.

Which sharks are nosing in with a munch? Are certain species becoming more prevalent, more comfortable in shallow water?

The data will be collected from drones above and cameras below.

Stony Brook researchers are examining the so-called hot spots of shark-prey interactions along southern Long Island that may be impacted by warming ocean condition.

"We need to understand the sharks' movement in a changing environment," Frisk said.

"That's an exciting thing for us because it allows us to conduct some of the first biological assessments of these animals," Shipley said.

Shark admirers at the Long Island Aquarium are eager for the results.

"I think they are fantastic animals, I really do," one visitor said.

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