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Best apps for shark tracking

A real-life marine biologist shares his must-have apps. Tap to read more.

Most beachgoers generally prefer to avoid bumping into sharks, but Chris Lowe spends his time and energy seeking them out.

As a marine biologist, professor, and director of the Shark Lab at California State University, Long Beach, Lowe has made a career researching the power and plight of the ocean’s fiercest predator. (As you might expect, Shark Week is basically his Christmas.)

“They’re really hard animals to study,” he says. “It’s very difficult to nail down how many are out there and where they’re located.”

Whale shark

Lowe is developing his own shark-tracking app to collect data from police departments, local pilots, and the Coast Guard. For now, to do his aquatic sleuthing, Lowe uses a suite of existing apps that help him organize his research, navigate the tricky coastal weather patterns, and chart his team’s findings.

Chris Lowe, the rare kid who actually grew up to be a marine biologist.

Windfinder

What it does: Predicts wind patterns and ocean currents
Why he loves it: “When we’re out looking for white sharks along the coast, we have to have really calm conditions. Often we’re using either helicopters or drones to spot them from the air, and if the ocean is too rough, we can’t see. Windfinder gives us accurate measurements in small, localized areas. You put in any location and the app will take data from buoys with wind sensors. Or it’ll use Codar (coastal ocean dynamics application radar), the low-frequency radar they shoot over the water to get surface currents. It’s great—we use it quite a bit.”

    Windfinder - Wind & Weather

    Weather & wind forecast

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They may look gray, but these are actually blue sharks (photographed off the coast of South Africa).

NOAA Radar

What it does: Delivers professional-grade weather reports
Why he loves it: “All my students use this one when they’re going offshore. It gives you an ability to say, OK, we might have an hour-long clear window before the fog rolls in, so you better get out now. It’s usually pretty darn accurate.”

    Weather Radar: Forecast

    Weather Forecast and Warnings

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Sharks are always easier to track when they exhibit this behavior!

Expedition White Shark

What it does: Tracks sharks
Why he loves it: “One of my colleagues started this app to tag and track white sharks. He’ll catch an adult white shark and put a satellite transmitter on the dorsal fin. Every time the shark pops up, the app gives a latitude and longitude. What’s really interesting is that he’s tagged some mature females. We know that they come to Southern California to give birth, but his app tells me when they’re coming back, so we can predict when babies may start showing up.”

    Expedition White Shark

    Education

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Photographer Michael Muller has spent the last 10 years photographing sharks around the world, supported by organizations such as WildAid and EarthEcho.

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