SPCMSC Research Scientists will virtually present USGS research at Cape Cod National Seashore Shark Research Meeting

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On January 28, 2021, SPCMSC Research Geologist Jennifer Miselis and CNSS Scientist Tim Nelson will virtually present USGS research on the nearshore morphologic evolution of Outer Cape Cod, MA to members of the National Park Service at Cape Cod National Seashore and other local academic and industry partners.

A photo of a National Park Service information plate showing a great white shark at Cape Cod, MA.

A photo of a National Park Service information plate on “Sharks in Cape Cod Waters”, Cape Cod, MA, taken during a field study reconnaissance mission. (Credit: Jennifer Miselis, USGS. Public domain.)

Abundance of great white sharks has increased in the North Atlantic Ocean in recent years. Simultaneously, interactions between white sharks and the beach-going public are becoming increasingly common along Outer Cape Cod, MA and Cape Cod National Seashore (CACO). In fact, since 2012, three shark-human interactions have occurred (one fatal). And in 2018, CACO beaches were closed to swimming 28 times due to shark presence. Limited observations of white shark behavior from Outer Cape Cod suggest they may be hunting in the shallow waters close to the beach where seafloor depths can accommodate their size. This suggests that there may be a relationship between white shark behavior and the dynamic morphology of the nearshore environment. Through an interagency agreement with the National Park Service (NPS) at Cape Cod National Seashore, USGS researchers at the St. Petersburg and Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Centers (SPCMSC and WHCMSC) sought to characterize the nearshore environment of Outer Cape Cod to determine if spatial and temporal variability in nearshore morphology could be facilitating the predatory behavior of white sharks. Specifically, SPCMSC researchers utilized topo-bathymetric lidar data from three time periods to examine the magnitude of nearshore morphology changes and to determine how tidal variations and morphology combine to increase shark access to beach-adjacent areas. The results of the analysis will be presented to NPS CACO managers and others involved in shark-related research on Outer Cape Cod, including the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Center for Coastal Studies, and Salem State University.