You can play an essential part in the ongoing conservation efforts to save the endangered great white shark.
The funds raised from this campaign will be used exclusively for this project and once the software has been upgraded it will be made open source (how exciting!!) and will be used internationally by research teams to effectively monitor white shark populations and to support long term global conservation efforts of this majestic species.
Donate today and you can win some amazing prizes!
Due to the elusive nature of these incredible sharks, it has been challenging to find a reliable method of data collection to effectively monitor their populations.
Enter the perfect synergy of science and mathematics! Dr, Sara Andreotti, a marine biologist in the department of Botany and Zoology at Stellenbosch University has spent many years collecting over 5000 images of white shark dorsal fins along the South African coastline as part of her research.
The trailing edge of a white shark’s dorsal fin is unique to each individual shark, much like a human fingerprint.
Over six years Dr Sara Andreotti painstakingly built a database of images and where a genetic sample was taken, it would be linked to the shark’s profile and thus identified as a unique individual.
This labor-intensive manual work was extremely time consuming and frustrating and for a busy Marine Biologist it was just not practical.
Enter the applied mathematics department at Stellenbosch University! Prof. Ben Herbst, a specialist in machine learning and Dr. Pieter Holtzhausen, a software engineer with his PhD in Applied Mathematics were overjoyed at the unique challenge of working with Dr. Sara’s data base.
An algorithmic technique called dynamic time warping was used to create the IDentifin software, which allows any data to be turned into a linear sequence which can then be analyzed. This technique is often used in speech recognition software.
This custom-made software uses the complete database for comparing the matches and organizes them in order of similarity from left to right. There is also an embedded function in the software to create a matrix of the history of recaptures. This information can be used to estimate population numbers.
Since then, Dr Andreotti, her students and Dr Pieter Holtzhausen have been working to refine the software to make it as user-friendly as possible.
The last few adjustments will allow completing all the improvements and ultimately share the software with other research teams, nationally and internationally. For this, we are aiming to raise R 40 000, which will go entirely towards this project.
Donate to this worthy cause today and you can win one of the following prizes:
1) All inclusive shark cage diving vouchers for 2 - valid for 3 years!
2) A whale watching tour for 2 - valid for 1 year
3) A white Shark Diving Company Celsius jacket, buff, key ring and badge.
4) A gin and wine hamper from Misty Mountains Estate in Stanford.