(c) Deron Verbeck
THE SCIENTIFIC PROCESS
SUBMISSION, MATCHING, IDENTIFICATION
There is the expression, “a photograph is worth a thousand words”. This is particularly true of the photo identification process. From one quality, well-focused photograph taken at the proper angle, we can identify the Whale Shark. One photograph adds information to long-term monitoring and allows us to discover important information.
Many animals have unique identifiers that allow scientists to recognize distinct individuals in a population or species. For Whale Sharks, each individual has a unique pattern of spots on the body. Some individuals may have other unique features like nicked edges of their dorsal fins or scarring on their bodies.
Once identified, the individual is added to our catalog and database. From there, we are able to track the individual throughout its lifetime. We also collaborate with other international projects to compare our catalog to other databases around the world to see if an individual has been spotted by other researchers in other locations.