In the summer of 2016, I volunteered with a small group of fellow field researchers to collect conservation data on whale sharks in Baja California, Mexico. Our conservation data was collected with cameras, waterproof slates for documentation of data, and measuring tape to measure the length of the whale sharks we encountered. All of our cameras varied in style and price, from a GoPro to a cell phone inside a protective underwater sleeve. We each used our own underwater camera to capture photo-identifications of various whale sharks in the Sea of Cortez. Once a whale shark was spotted near our small fishing boat, a few of us would slowly enter the water and swim towards it. Submissions of photo-identifications have to remain raw images and cannot be zoomed, cropped, edited, or altered in any way, since it affects the integrity of the data.
To capture Figure 1 accurately, I had to swim closely and calmly alongside the whale shark while steadying my camera to record an effective photo-identification. While two of us photographed the shark, another researcher would swim underneath the whale shark to record its sex. We quickly measured the length of that whale shark with measuring tape or against the length of the fishing boat and reassembled on the boat to record our data onto the slate.
As Figure 2 highlights, the data collected consisted of sex, length and any identifiable markings. If a whale shark had noticeable identifiable markings, such as a boat injury to the dorsal fin as seen in Figure 3, this was also photographed as data. Once back on land, we uploaded our data onto a computer and submitted it to Wildbook for Whale Sharks.