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**Verified?** *(This bot cannot verify AMAs just yet)* **Date:** 2014-01-31 **[Link to submission](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/)** (*Has self-text*) Questions|Answers :--|:-- [Given Reddit's history, what is it going to take to get one of these whale sharks nicknamed Mr. Splashypants?](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3urup?context=5)|[Link to www.whaleshark.org](http://www.whaleshark.org/individuals.jsp?number=BZ-014) |OK, now how do I email everyone on Reddit when this whale shark shows up again? [I like how the gender is unknown until one spotting when it was male but then immediately afterwords went back to being unknown. E:spelling.](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf48lpm?context=5)|They're actually really difficult to sex unless they are really large males or females. We're pretty skeptical of the reported sex in sighting reports. [What is one amazing fact about the whale shark most people aren't aware of?](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3n1gj?context=5)|I can give you a few! |We have never recorded birth. We don't even know where it happens! |We have never recorded mating. We don't know where and when it happens, and whale sharks have some clearly segregated migration routes. For example, large, potentially pregnant females seem to appear with no males in the Fall off the Galapagos Islands. Where they come from and where they go to give birth is a complete mystery! |Only one migration route (start to finish) for one shark has ever been mapped with a satellite tag. Satellite tages tend to fail or fall off very quickly when attached. |They can dive to several thousand feet several times per day, but we don't know how deep. 1280m is the record so far, but that was when the archiving tag (placed by Dr. Simon Pierce) ejected itself to avoid being crushed at depth. |Whale sharks are roughly estimated to live 60-120 years, and females can grow in excess of 40 feet over that time. |Whale sharks < 4 meters are rarely sighted (maybe once or twice per year), despite the fact that a large female can give birth to 300+. |We simply don't know where the pups and nurseries are. [*We have never recorded birth. We don't even know where it happens!* Eh, are you really a scientist? Pretty obvious that they give birth in the ocean. ](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf46f0g?context=5)|OK, OK, you have me there. We can be that specific. :) [What drew you to this research?](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3mof1?context=5)|I saw my first whale shark off the coast of Djibouti in 2002. I was just a diver, and we saw an 8 foot juvenile. I was amazed at its beauty, and I noticed the spot patterning on the side and how it appeared somewhat random. I had spare time on my hands, and so I began working on a pattern recognition system to map their spots into a database, much like a human fingerprint. Eventually, I teamed up with a colleague at NASA (Zaven Arzoumanian, pulsar astronomer), and we found a software algorithm developed for matching star patterns in pictures of the night sky. It turns out that matching photos of stars is much the same as matching photos of the spot patterns of whale sharks, and we modified the algorithm to become a new way of tagging whale sharks with high accuracy over long time periods. |Before image-based identification, physical tagging was required. And the plastic tags often fell off or fouled up within a year, so there was no way to identify individual animals and do a proper mark-recapture study to estimate population sizes. |As a diver and software developer, working on the pattern recognition system drew me into the research. SO I am actually an "extreme" citizen scientist, holding down a day job yet doing whale shark researcher and wildlife software development at night. I have published papers and help to coordinate the global research community over at whaleshark.org. |[Link to www.whaleshark.org](http://www.whaleshark.org/publications.jsp) |The software we use for whale sharks is now open source and being used for other species. Check out: [Link to www.wildme.org](http://www.wildme.org/wildbook.) [There is something about this that is just awesome! From your first experience with the whale shark to working out a way to track them based on their patterns and markings. You have just inspired me to take a trip up to Ningaloo. I have always been fascinated by sharks - all kinds (Neptune Island is also on my list\) and I would love to see one of these magnificent creatures in the wild. Do you have any experience with other kinds of sharks - or are you more of a one-fish kind of guy??](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf42ndo?context=5)|Mostly a one-fish kind of guy, though I am getting pretty excited to use my software on a wild dog project (painted dog) in Africa. Don't know why, but wild dogs and whale sharks "are cool" (said in Matt Smith's Dr. Who voice.) [That is so cool. I grew up wanting to be a marine biologist and would love to do what you do. Different paths were taken and now I'm going to be an elementary teacher, with a main goal to get kids excited about science and the ocean.](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf4ba4a?context=5)|Thank you for what you do then. You, more than me, have the ability to instill wonder in children. There are so many beautiful things yet to discover in Nature, and children should know that they are an amazing part of a dynamic ecosystem. [Could this work with Dalmations?](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf64tsk?context=5)|True story: I once submitted a fake presentation abstract to a conference claiming that I had spliced whale shark DNA into a white dog. I sent a picture of a spotted dalmation as proof. :) [Hello sir, welcome to reddit! Why is the whale shark targeted specifically? It seems like a logistical nightmare!](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3ms13?context=5)|That's an excellent question. The logistical nightmare of moving and chopping up the shark is counter-balanced by the potential income: potentially USD 31000 for the fishermen and a net value of all the parts of a few hundred thousand. These are estimates but likely not too far off the mark. They are also slow moving and spend a fair amount of time near the surface, thus if sighted they could be easy prey for fishermen equipped to hunt them. [Where is the market for these sharks?](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3s571?context=5)|Largely Asia for the fins. But the latest WildRisk report suggests that some byproducts may be making their way to Europe and and elsewhere. Check out the Vimeo link above. [How do you know? You said earlier there has never been a recorded birth, how do you know they can give birth to 300+?](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3tck3?context=5)|Joung, Shoou-Jeng et al. (July 1996). "The whale shark, Rhincodon typus, is a livebearer: 300 embryos found in one ‘megamamma’ supreme". Environ. Biol. Fish. 46 (3): 219–223. doi:10.1007/BF0004997. |And please send a nickname if you want to give a real shark a nickname! |But like so many things for whale sharks: we have one data point. [What if they are little cannibals like tiger sharks?](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3twbz?context=5)|They are filter feeders, so I would be surprised if that occurred. I view the large # of pups as a strategy for neonate high mortality. [What is your opinion on whale sharks in captivity? ](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3puwf?context=5)|Herein I am a self-confessed and conflicted hypocrite. I have been out in the press against it. Whale sharks are massively migratory and can dive very deep each day, often making multiple dives. So even a large tank is so very small in comparison to their behaviors and range. |But I take my children to zoos and aquariums. And seeing a whale shark...while stunning and unforgettable in the wild...even in an aquarium, it is pretty cool. |Over the course of the last year, I have gotten to know some of the research staff at the Georgia Aquarium, and their heads and hearts are in the right places. And they do support on-site and captivity research, including some metabolic studies that we just couldn't do in the wild, such as studying blood chemistry to determine stress levels. |So...my opinion is: let's not make a habit of it. But if it is done, let's get some valuable science out of it. |And awesome question by the way! [Are whale sharks ever released from captivity? I could agree with your point on research if we return them to their rightful homes. Otherwise it's just cruel.](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3qdi0?context=5)|[Link to my.telegraph.co.uk](http://my.telegraph.co.uk/expat/annabelkantaria/10142764/will-we-ever-know-what-happened-to-sammy-the-whale-shark/) |And even though we could have used the photos to track its return and how well it did, they were never provided. :( |I would love to see them all released after a period of time and to study their survival and movement after. We don't know very much about their migration, so I don't know how well a returned whale shark would do in terms of returning to a migratory pattern that would ensure it gets to necessary food sources. [Thanks for the reply. One follow up, if you don't mind. How intelligent do you think they are relative to large marine mammals? ](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3rlkh?context=5)|I have no way of measuring their intelligence in any meaningful way. But let me give you an example: they can land on a food pulse (e.g., spawning) on exactly the right day of the year at exactly the right spot and then vanish. They make long distance migrations and know where to be exactly when. |They can grow up to 40+ feet in length, and at that size, there is not much (beyond humans) that can hurt them. I don't know how such a large creature even perceives the world. We are small to it. It can dive deep and travel far. It may live over 60 years and take multiple migration routes along the way, possibly using the earth's magnetic field for navigation. |“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.” ― Henry Beston, The Outermost House: A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod. |[Link to www.indiegogo.com](http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/wild-me-bringing-wildlife-into-social-media/x/5776235) |And great question! Please send a whale shark nickname. [I may be wrong, but aren't all whale sharks in captivity relatively small? So wouldn't they all have to be released eventually if they keep growing?](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3xsxd?context=5)|You are absolutely right. |That will be an interesting question for the Georgia Aquarium over time. They had some initial deaths but now seem to have a good sense of whale shark husbandry. How big can a whale shark grow in their tank? I don't think anyone knows. [That's an amazing quote.](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3tch2?context=5)|Henry Beston was well ahead of his time. :) [Do filter feeders like whale sharks and whales ever compete or fight over feeding grounds? Do they interact interspecies at all?](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf4b5qu?context=5)|Not that I am aware of. [Has anyone been accidentally swallowed by one? I've always wondered this.](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3o2h0?context=5)|No, the mouth is large but the entrance to the digestive system is very small. They get their sustenance from filter feeding and could not get you into their stomach even if they wanted to. [For a recreational diver, where/when would be the best place/time to swim with whale sharks?](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3nbjn?context=5)|There are a lot of great tourism spots, and if you take photos, you can directly contribute data to our research at whaleshark.org. We will even email you whenever your sighted shark is resighted. |Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia: April-July. |Utila, Honduras: Year round. |Tofo, Mozambique: Year round. |Yucatan, Mexico: July, August, September. |Baja Peninsula, Mexico: Sept.-December. |Belize, Maldives, Seychelles, and others. |If you email info@whaleshark.org, I could send you a chart for your region of interest showing peak sighting times. [Any chance they ever get close to the coast of NJ? lol.](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf4wc8t?context=5)|Theoretically possible but never witnessed...that I know of. But there is at least one report up in Canada. You never know. [Why is it wrong to kill whale sharks? There are slaughterhouses for a lot of animals that humans eat on a daily basis. Whale sharks themselves kill and eat smaller fishes. So why is it wrong when a human kills a whale shark?](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3vooh?context=5)|Is it wrong to eat fish? No. Is it sustainable to kill and eat whale sharks? No. It takes a whale shark many years to reach sexual maturity (about what it takes humans), and their ability to reproduce to fill the void left by fishing is limited therefore. As suggested by this video, a slaughterhouse can process 600/year. See my population estimates above for an example of how easily a slaughterhouse could wipe out entire populations in Australia (200 sharks), the Seychelles (400), and elsewhere in a single year if fishermen began taking them. We live in an age where our technology can quickly remove long-lived animals from the wild and nature cannot likely replace them quickly enough to maintain numbers for future years. Given that we don't know very much about the population off China, there would be no way to set an kind of policy for the number that could be taken per year yet leave a sustainable population. Given that they are not a critical nutritional source for any population and that their primary product (shark fins for soup) has no real nutritional value, there's simply no need to fish them nor any way to do so responsibly. [Does your group have citizen science volunteer opportunities? I volunteered with the RJ Dunlap group in Miami after an AMA from a Shark Biologist who works with them and it was incredibly fun and rewarding!](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3py8u?context=5)|For those of you who can't volunteer, please consider a donation to our social media for wildlife project: Wild Me. [Do you take fish oil supplements?](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3pbsv?context=5)|I don't. But that is not activism of any sort. I probably should, and if I knew where they were sourced from, I even might...after re-confirming their health benefits with a bit of reading and talking to my doctor. But the revelation of this slaughterhouse makes me wonder how well we can be sure of the contents of such. [Flax oil omega 3 is chemically identical, so we don't need to take fish oil to "take fish oil".](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf46w8d?context=5)|Thank you! I learned something new! [You exclaim a lot! Really!](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf48jis?context=5)|Yes! [What's your favorite color?](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3r1mz?context=5)|Favorite color: blue! Was that predictable? [Have you got bitten by sharks?](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3nixl?context=5)|Not whale sharks. They have 3000+ teeth, but they are all tiny. They don't bite since they are filter feeders (eating plankton), but even if you put your hand in their mouth, it would just scrape up your skin. [*Not whale sharks.* Hmm, so this is a yes to other species? ;\)](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf47721?context=5)|Not yet! Have been in the water with hammerheads, silky sharks, and white and black tip reef sharks. Great and very safe species to dive with. [Have you, or would you ever try shark fin soup? I'm guessing that is a probable "no" but thought I would ask anyway. ](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3q69k?context=5)|I have not. I would not. I have walked out of restaurants serving it. I am certain that it makes me a hypocrite based on other foods I might eat and their environmental impact, but I have to draw a line somewhere for those things I am informed about. [What would be a consequence of whale sharks being extinct?](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf40fqb?context=5)|Excellent question. No one really knows. The resulting loss of diversity may not show up immediately, and it may only contribute to a tipping point beyond which there is no recovery for an ecosystem. |Personally there would be the loss of wonder. Whale sharks are a great unknown. They spend most of their lives at depths and distances beyond our easy observation. We are lucky to see them when we do, and in seeing them and comprehending how little we...as technologically advanced as we are...how little we actually understand about them...well, it is humbling. And for curious people like me, it is motivating. It is a nut that no one has cracked yet, giving those of us who try a chance to feel unique in our efforts and ourselves. This mystery will yield to us, and in doing so, we will have played our part. [What are the current management policies against these types of slaughterhouses? Is there anything the US can do? Or even on an individual level?](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3wipr?context=5)|In China, I assume there are none. From a U.S. perspective, keeping negative attention and awareness about that slaughterhouse is a good first step. My impression from various conservation groups (I am mostly on the science side) is that the the shark fin trade is a black market affair. Finning operations often often take illegal catch (such as whale sharks) and know to stay low profile (see documentaries Sharkwater and the Vimeo link above). Making them very high profile operations is a good first step, and news of it may reach the right folks at the diplomat level. I am very appreciative of the folks at WildRisk for exposing this slaughterhouse. [Total aside: never heard of wildbook before now, snooped around a bit and it's an amazing project! Any particular features you feel it's lacking in case I decide to mess about with the sources?](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3s39x?context=5)|Yes, and thank you for your interest! |[Link to www.oceansmart.org](http://www.oceansmart.org/individuals.jsp?number=5727) |As we move into the world of "Big Data", we are correspondingly getting more and more wildlife sighting data from citizen scientists and..eventually...from drones. |The fact that the page shows an animal with 412 sightings also causes it to load slow and to lose its informative focus by focusing on a long table of details. |A) by default as a javascript timeline, such as Timeglider: [Link to timeglider.com](http://timeglider.com/widget/?p=intro) |B) optionally still as a table but one that is paged (e.g., JavaScript DataTables) |Beyond that, the biggest barrier to Wildbook is that it is web-based and requires Tomcat to run. Most biologists struggle with that, even with directions. Wrapping Tomcat and the webapp in an EXE installer would really help biologists set it up quickly to play with it before eventually moving it to a cloud server for production-level research. |[Link to www.wildme.org](http://www.wildme.org/wildbook/doku.php?id=wiki:todolist) |What interests you? [After that's up and running I could perhaps whip together an installer for the VM+VirtualBox bundle.](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3su48?context=5)| [Hi, so i did my undergraduate thesis on the International Whaling Commission, and basically how broken it is and how it doesn't work at all anymore. With how little china tends to listen to international organizations, do you see any hope of china stopping this practice? or is it going to take a large amount of international pressure to stop them from basically wiping out this species? ](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf46w4o?context=5)|I have been hearing from shark conservation groups that they are having success getting the message out in China of the damage that shark fin soup causes to shark populations. I think onsite NGOs stand the best chance of making a dent in consumption there. If there is demand, there will always be a black market. Reduce demand, and what catch is taken can hopefully be small enough to have little impact. [How did you know you wanted to be a marine biologist? What do you recommend that myself, as a high school student, do to get involved in marine biology?](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3r6sz?context=5)|Great questions! |Here is the fun part. My background is in Chemical Engineering (B.S.) and Arab Studies (M.A.). I do whale shark research because I love it and because I have some software and information design skills that allow me to coordinate a global research community online. I took a passion for diving and sharks, IT skills, carved a niche, and made a place for myself...with some surprisingly warm reception from the traditional scientific research community. |I never knew that I wanted to be a marine biologist, and even though I do the work of one and work with them, I am not formally trained as one. I still don't know what I want to be, and I don't think it is any one thing. When talking to students, I tell them to do what they must, what they can't help but do, and in doing it passionately they will find a way to make a job out of it. I still like the traditional degree system as it helps build critical thinking and problem solving. But where and how you apply that problem solving should not be limited by the degree. |From a more practical perspective, find a marine biologist that needs help. Many tasks don't need the academic background but rather actual physical assistance or organizational skills (e.g., data management) and get the experience and connections. From a position of experience, you will probably have a lot more choice in the academic route you take and a lot more wisdom about it. |Just my two cents though. |And please send me a whale shark nickname! [Thank you for making the critical leap from science to advocacy and education. The whale shark is one of my favorite sea citizens and it disturbed me to hear about the slaughter house. I hope people start to get as worked up over this as the dolphin slaughtering in Taiji. How do whale sharks know where to go for food? Do they follow water temperatures? ](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3wgy0?context=5)|Unknown, but whatever the exact mechanism, they know exactly where and when to be there. [Where I am diving/living at the moment is about to hit Whale Shark season, so I am excited to see some (hopefully\) before I leave.](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf40b11?context=5)|We know very little about cycles and gestation. Based on other shark species, might be in the range of 1-3 years. Growth of neonate pups is slow though, with some estimating the age at maturity to be 20-30 years. [Has anyone spoken to the fisherman doing this and asked if they worry about the effect they're having on the population of the animals they're killing? I'd love to know if they know, or even care. Feel any sort of guilt?](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf430o7?context=5)|That's a really good question and would be a really good study. Given that they are illegally taken in many places, I am guessing there is little guilt over it and a lot of greed. [Would "Fast Eddy" work? It's what my great grandpa used to call my dad as a child. ](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3sgga?context=5)|[Link to www.whaleshark.org](http://www.whaleshark.org/individuals.jsp?number=H-025) |If you want me to associate your real name with the nickname, please send me as email at jason@whaleshark.org and include the link above. I can also add your email address into our system so that you get automated emails of resightings of this specific shark. [I would very much like to nickname a shark if you're still offering! My friend's nickname is Mccy and it'd be a pretty awesome birthday present for him :D. Edit: I just noticed that you've only been offering nicknames to people who are asking questions so I apologise for jumping the gun! I do have a question though.. I'm a computer science graduate who loves wildlife and secretly wishes he could be out there engaging with it instead of programming for a living. Or ideally, a nice mix of both! Is there *any* sort of role in your field for someone like me?](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf43uyw?context=5)|If you want to PM me your email address and that of your friend (plus your name so I can associate it with the nickname), I can make sure that the system automatically emails you when your whale shark is resighted. [Whale sharks have been my favorite shark species for a while--was horrified to hear about the slaughterhouse yesterday. Your spot-recognition program seems really interesting! Have you ever encountered any sharks with really weird spot patterns?](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf5rc7n?context=5)|Really weird spot patterns? How about no spots? [What is it that goes through the Japanese's minds, what is their reasoning, when they slaughter these animals knowing that these sea animals can possibly go extinct? ](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3o254?context=5)|It is a factory in China that is slaughtering whale sharks. They (the fishermen and factory owners) are profit-driven only. There is a market for shark fins. It is a prestigious dish in some parts of Asia, where it is served at weddings, etc. [Oops! Sorry for the misread. I always think it's only the Japanese that do the slaughtering. Thank you for answering, though! Well, now that I am on the question, what parts of the whale shark are used for food? What happens to the rest of the whale shark that is not used for food? ](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3o9q6?context=5)|The fins are the most profitable parts, used in shark fin soup. The meat can be eaten and the oils are used for various purposes. I think very little remains after that, and what does, is probably ground up for herbal remedies and other pruposes. The video here describes more, straight from the factory: [Link to vimeo.com](http://vimeo.com/84925609) |But Vimeo seems to be down right now. [So is there actually scientific proof behind it being an aphrodisiac? I'm asking for a friend...](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3zn86?context=5)|Heh. No. [I take part in a lot of "citizen science" research on reptiles and amphibians, as well as fish throughout the United States, and, as you know, it's amazing how much useful information we can get from "regular people."](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf42bf0?context=5)|Awesome questions! [This AMA is incredibly fascinating and I'm looking forward to taking some time tonight to look more into the projects.](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf42bf0?context=5)|Here's the story with the Caribbean and Gulf Coast on a map: [Link to bit.ly](http://bit.ly/1enrYh0) [Are Whales known around the coasts of Florida? I imagine they show up in the Bahamas and Caribbean at least...](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf42bf0?context=5)|Regarding Florida, we get sightings off Palm Beach that have been linked to Mexico but with minimal evidence. However, we have sightings off the west coast of Florida that have been linked to Belize, Mexico, and Texas. But largely the sharks are far enough offshore from west Florida that no one is looking for them, so we only get the accidental reports from sport fishing trips. Given a spotter plan, I bet we could start collecting a lot more sightings. [Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer all of our questions and spread the knowledge on such a fascinating animal. ](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf42bf0?context=5)|Also, do you want to nickname a whale shark? [No question, however your website background color is quite terrible. Have you considered something different? Here is a 15 second CSS change: Link to imgur.com. Food for thought, cheers.](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf49g8a?context=5)|OK, good food for thought! Mind sharing how you did that?!? Would love to implement it. You're right...much better!!! [Holy Crap! Really? Here it is: Vala Bala Mal Doran.](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf4cck0?context=5)|[Link to www.whaleshark.org](http://www.whaleshark.org/individuals.jsp?number=P-054) [Edit: My students are soon going to know all about 'my' whale shark.](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf4cck0?context=5)|PM me if you want to associate an email address with it so that you get automated emails of its resightings. or if you want to associate your name with its nickname. Cheers. [Can we ironically nickname a whale killing machine?](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf4n1us?context=5)|Well from the planktons' perspective... [I swam with whale sharks last summer in the Gulf of Mexico, it was the most incredible and humble experience of my life so far. To be able to interact and study them on a regular basis must be one of the greatest jobs available. Congratulations and good luck on your continuing success!](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3o9vr?context=5)|Thank you! It is an incredible species to study, but it is a slow, uphill battle to learn anything as they spend so much time deep or far offshore where they are difficult to observe. [He says he wants one to be named Mr Smith.. ](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf42tk5?context=5)|Here is Mr. Smith! |[Link to www.whaleshark.org](http://www.whaleshark.org/individuals.jsp?number=H-035) |If you want to PM an email address to notify, our system can automatically notify you whenever this shark is resighted. [BluesFan43.](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3xspg?context=5)|[Link to www.whaleshark.org](http://www.whaleshark.org/individuals.jsp?number=H-031) If you PM me your name and/or email address, I can associate your name with the nickname and your email address will receive automated updates of any resightings. This is a pretty cool shark tracked between Honduras and Mexico for several years. [Of course.](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf3xspg?context=5)| [I swam with whale sharks last summer I the Gulf of Mexico, it was the most incredible and humble experience of my life so far. To be able to interact and study them on a regular basis must be one of the greatest jobs available. Congratulations and good luck on your continuing success.](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf44oub?context=5)|Thank you! It is enjoyable work. [When I first learned about Whale Sharks in grade 3 or so, I wanted nothing more than to be a marine biologist, they were my favourite animal and I was absolutely fascinated by them. Just wanted to say, I am immensely jealous of how your life turned out. ](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf41nb2?context=5)|That's very flattering. Thank you! But can I tell you that most of my time is spent in front of a laptop processing data and building better software to manage it? Learning anything about whale sharks is like finding a needle in a haystack. Through citizen science and building our own tools though, we are metaphorically using a metal detector! [So, no super awesome questions, but the naming opportunity makes me wish I could think of one(whale sharks are my favorite sea animal\)! However! Thanks for your hard work, you are awesome. ](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf44mza?context=5)|Go ahead and send a name! :) [I don't even know why they're farming Whalesharks. They take forever to kill and they don't drop any loot.](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf486og?context=5)|Patting self on back for understanding that reference. :) [But some how i doubt a fisherman in HK will look at your facebook](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1wnf8y/i_am_a_whale_shark_researcher_lets_talk_about_the/cf4ako4?context=5)|The social media fundraising campaign we just concluded (Wild Me) is not targeted at fishermen. It's actually targeted at the general public, transforming the research data we have for whale sharks and other species (I am currently working on humpbacks and sperm whales) into social media profiles that are easy to understand. In other words, we want to transform boring scientific data and build each animal under study into a story and a legend that (eventually as we further develop the concept) promotes appreciation and ideally instills a desire to protect. It's called "translational ecology", and our theory goes that as our social networks extend beyond our immediate geography to keep us aware of those we value or are interested in far away, so too could our networks extend beyond our species and allow us to include animals whose individual behaviors, photos, actions, etc. be conveyed to us automatically from the collection and curation of research data. |For example, what if through photo-identification we could tell you exactly which whales you are working hard to protect under Sea Shepherd? What if everything science knows about them could be conveyed to your supporters through easy-to-understand social media profiles? Would it make a difference for your supporters to see each whale that you are working to protect as an individual life worth protecting in and of itself? |That's what we are working toward, and I hope you see that we're actually on the same team. *Last updated: 2014-02-04 14:45 UTC* *This post was generated by a robot! Send all complaints to [epsy](/message/compose/?to=epsy).*