Desert Star Systems
August 2016 Newsletter

Hey everyone!

We at Desert Star hope you are having a fantastic summer! It has been a while, but we are bringing back our newsletter! This month will be featuring some current research utilizing our SeaTag-MOD technology, followed by some upcoming conferences that DSS representatives will be attending!

-Amber and Josh, DSS Sales Team

A prototype tag deployed on a white shark dorsal fin
Image courtesy of MBARI and the Monterey Bay Aquarium 

The White Shark Cafe Camera:

Everyone knows about Great White sharks... But what do we really understand about their behavior (besides their impressive predatory breaches! Thanks Shark Week :) )? With the help of Desert Star's electronic tagging equipment, researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium are setting out to do just that.

Great White Sharks are commonly found along the central coast during the fall and winter, but leave in the spring to a remote location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It was originally believed these predatory fish spend their lives solely on the coast, where plenty meals exist in the form of seals and sea lions. 

Migratory behavior was first observed in 2002 by researchers from Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, the University of California, Davis, and Point Reyes National Seashore with the help of PSATs. It seemed strange that they would leave this essentially endless supply of food..I mean, who passes up a free meal?! 

The location sharks were tracked to, which falls about halfway between the Hawaiian Islands and the Baja Coast, was dubbed, 'The White Shark Café', as researchers believe it to be a place where the sharks migrate to feed or find a mate. This finding prompted the question: How do we find out what the sharks are doing once they've arrived?

Migratory routes to the White Shark Cafe
Image courtesy of Stanford University

Once the initial discovery was made, researchers naturally wanted to unravel this mystery even further. In doing so they enlisted the help of Desert Star Systems SeaTag-MOD. This tag gets is name as it is a modular pop-up satellite tag. This is Desert Star’s most advanced tag, with capabilities to provide a detailed representation of what happens along the migration pattern of a species via built-in depth, accelerometer, magnetometer, and temperature sensors. SeaTag-MODs have modular end caps, perfect for customization. With this feature, tags can be tailored to best suit your research needs. 

Dr. Sal Jorgensen, a researcher at the Monterey Bay Aquarium initially posed the idea for a new PSAT tag, equipped with the 'Shark Cafe camera', (named from the location where researchers wish to observe behavior) to Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). The new design involved plans for a video camera that could attach to the shark for months, withstand depths of 3,000+ feet, and the ability to sense the shark’s movements in order to record selective footage of its behavior...sounds simple, right? Engineers at MBARI thought of this as an "impossible job". Engineer Thom Maughan, however, was up for the challenge. 

Jorgenson was initially using California Wildlife Computers PAT tags, when Maughan came up with the design for a pressure and light sensor, as well as an accelerometer in order to detect shark behavior. Maughan's design also included solar energy harvesting to improve recoverability. It was Jorgenson who had heard of Desert Star's SeaTag-MOD, with its solar powered transmission capability, and suggested they explore using it.

CEO, Chief Engineer, and inventor of the SeaTag-MOD, Marco Flagg of Desert Star, was contacted about the details of the proposed design and came to an agreement where MBARI was able to get access to the software that runs on the SeaTag-MOD. Marco assisted in making a hook in the SeaTag-MOD for plugging in MBARI's shark behavior detection algorithm. The SeaTag-MOD combined with the ability to change the firmware enabled the design to be simplified in order to use pressure, light and acceleration sensors in the SeaTag-MOD while removing those parts from the camera controller.

Schematic for the new Shark Cafe Camera tag
Image courtesy of MBARI

Maughan then created a software framework which uses archival data to write the behavior detection algorithm, which then translates to a portable program that validates the ported algorithm against the archival data. This code is compiled into the SeaTag-MOD and runs in real time. Maughan stated that "Desert Star has been a great partner in developing the Shark Cafe Cam."

Jorgenson hopes to begin tagging in December or January, when most white sharks are leaving the California coast. The tags will stay on the sharks’ dorsal fin and remain in 'sleep mode' until sharks reach the Café about a month later. 

This project exemplifies the type of advanced research that can be undertaken with Desert Star's SeaTag-MODs, no matter what species you study. Just as in the example with the Cafe Camera, SeaTag-MODs allow researchers the freedom to modify the tags’ firmware to perform new functions, add sensor arrangements, or develop an entirely new tag. Whether you are an engineer, biologist, or both, Desert Star will gladly work with you to achieve the ideal tag for your research. We heavily encourage pioneer customers who approach us with ideas for new modifications. It is from these partnerships that new technology allows scientists to conduct more research in their mission to explore, and protect the ocean and its inhabitants.

Jorgenson and a prototype Cafe Cam tag
Image courtesy of MBARI and the Monterey Bay Aquarium 

Upcoming Conferences:
American Fisheries Society in Kansas City, MO.
8/21-8/25, 2016.
In addition to our booth (#420), we will be participating in a PSAT Symposium organized by Mark Renkawitz and Timothy Sheehan from NOAA. The symposium will feature 14 talks, with speakers discussing their experiences (both successes and challenges) with PSAT technology, in hopes to promote better understanding, as well as benefit new, and future users. Desert Stars’ CEO Marco Flagg will be giving a talk “The Use of Geomagnetic Field Strength Measurements to Produce Geo-Position Estimates for PSAT Tagged Marine Animals Beyond the Euphotic Zone”! This will be an excellent opportunity to engage with your peers on PSAT use :)

Oceans 2016 Conference in Monterey, CA.
9/18-9/22, 2016.

We will be sharing a booth (#705) with representatives from the Monterey Bay International Trade Association (MBITA), featuring a joint booth called ‘Blue Silicon Valley’. The term was created as the Monterey Bay, CA is the “leading and largest sustainable, marine protected area, research and development regions in the world!”

The Wildlife Society Conference in Raleigh NC.
10/15 -10/19, 2016.

Join us in North Carolina for The Wildlife Societies 23rd Annual Conference! Come visit our booth (#143)! We will also be attending The Wildlife Societies 'Spatial Ecology & Telemetry Working Group Meeting' on Tuesday the 18th.

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