Lesson of the Day: ‘Katharine, the Great White Shark Who Ghosted Her Trackers, Resurfaces’

Lesson of the Day: ‘Katharine, the Great White Shark Who Ghosted Her Trackers, Resurfaces’

Before you read this article, take a look at a screenshot from this shark’s Twitter account. (Yes, the great white shark, Katharine, has a Twitter account. We’ll get to that later.)


What do you notice? What do you wonder?

What can you infer about this shark and why she is important just from the information on her Twitter account?

Read the article, then answer the following questions:

1. What facts do you learn about Katharine in the first six paragraphs of this article? How many of them were you able to glean from the image of her Twitter account?

2. What happened between May 12, 2019 and April 4, 2020? What does it tell scientists?

3. What are some possible explanations for Katharine’s silence?

4. What is the least likely explanation, according to an expert interviewed in the article? Why?

5. How, according to Chris Fischer, the founder of Ocearch, does the popularizing of ocean research, via Twitter accounts, T-shirt sales and the like, contribute to a serious campaign?

6. Do you agree? Do campaigns like this one make you feel a sense of ownership, or stewardship, for the ocean? What other campaigns like it, focused on nature, animals, the environment or science have you come across?

How do scientists tag these sharks? The Times has reported on Ocearch many times in the past, including in this 2012 piece, and in the related video above.

Once you see how it’s done, take a look at the Ocearch tracker, via which you can see not only sharks but also whales, seals, dolphins and turtles as well. Spend some time studying it, zooming in and out, and perhaps choosing some of the individual animals featured in the “recent pings” list and following their paths.

Then, ask yourself the questions we pose weekly in our What’s Going On in This Graph? activity: What do you notice? What are you curious about that comes from this data?

Finally, if you could tag something, whether in the natural or the man-made world, the way these scientists do to sharks and other sea creatures, what would you tag? What would you hope to learn from the resulting data? Why?