Tracking Lydia in the Deep

Lydia, a female great white shark now part of a global research project, was named this week in honor of University founder Lydia Moss Bradley.

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By Frank Radosevich II
March 4, 2013

Caught off the coast of Jacksonville, Fla., Lydia is now swimming freely in the deep.

A female great white shark named after University founder Lydia Moss Bradley, Lydia is part of a global research project that tracks the navigational patterns and health of dozens of sharks.

OCEARCH, a nonprofit organization conducting the oceanic research, caught and fitted Lydia with a GPS tracking device on her dorsal fin on Sunday. Caterpillar Inc., which has sponsored OCEARCH expeditions, named the shark in honor of its relationship with the University.

The group has tagged and collected blood and tissue samples from dozens of other great whites whose travel patterns can be followed online. The unprecedented data collected from the great whites can be used to study the animals’ behavior and movements.

"The research being conducted on sharks by OCEARCH with the support of Caterpillar is important to the sustainability and balance of the oceanic ecosystem," said President Joanne Glasser. "Bradley University is pleased to have the first great white shark off the coast of Jacksonville named after Lydia Moss Bradley, the pioneering founder of Bradley University. I believe Lydia Moss Bradley would be pleased to be associated with this groundbreaking research expedition that will affect future policy and inform faculty, students and the general public on this critical sustainability issue."

Weighing nearly 2,000 pounds and measuring more than 14 feet, Lydia was last tracked swimming off the north Florida coast.

Dr. Erich Stabenau, professor and chair of Bradley’s biology department, said tagging and tracking sea creatures is crucial to understanding the movements and natural history of a species, especially those that call the open sea their home.

“This information is invaluable to scientists, as it provides a glimpse into the animals’ potential foraging and reproductive habitats,” said Dr. Stabenau, who has conducted his own research on sea turtle populations. “In the case of a great white shark that is located so close to a beach, scientists will want to know if this is the typical habitat visited by this very pelagic animal, and whether it could lead to adverse interactions with humans.”