News Release

Discover white sharks and more in 3D! Cutting-edge, interactive shark and ray displays bring the ocean to life

New interactive models on the Save Our Seas Foundation’s (SOSF’s) World of Sharks website, and for the SOSF Shark Education Centre’s technology for young learners, bring to life the evolution and adaptions of sharks and rays – in 3D!

Business Announcement

Save Our Seas Foundation

GW PR image 2

image: The advanced techniques used to render the model sharks ensure they are not only true to form but also represent genuine movement in the animations. view more 

Credit: Photo: Byron Dilkes Rendered Image: Digital Life Project at the University of Massachusetts Amherst USA

For release on Friday, 14 July 2023 – SHARK AWARENESS DAY

Have you ever wondered how many kinds of sharks there are? Which is the biggest shark or the fastest? For these answers and lots more, the Save Our Seas Foundation’s (SOSF’s) World of Sharks website is the one-stop shop for shark information. Designed to provide scientifically accurate information in an engaging format, World of Sharks is where you can find infographics, podcast episodes, species cards and topic pages covering everything you’ve ever wanted to know about sharks and rays.

“We wanted World of Sharks to be the ultimate shark FAQ – created to answer all the questions people want to ask about sharks and rays,” says SOSF CEO Dr James Lea. “Through engaging and accessible content, we hope to grow a repository of fascinating shark facts that people can trust.”

And now, with this latest addition, the website will host interactive 3D white shark and manta ray models designed by the Digital Life Project at the University of Massachusetts (UMASS) in collaboration with the SOSF.

“I was really wanting to create something 3D and interactive, where visitors to the World of Sharks can explore in an engaging way that highlights the unique physiology and evolution of sharks and rays and demystifies their unique adaptations,” explains Jade Schultz, content manager for the SOSF. 

The Digital Life team, led by Professor Duncan Irschick, in collaboration with CG artist Johnson Martin and UMASS Amherst undergraduates Emma Hsiao and Braedon Fedderson, used media provided by the SOSF and data and open-access images to reconstruct these 3D shark species.

The interactive biology models enable website users to learn about different elements of shark and ray physiology. For instance, just allowing the cursor to hover over key features will bring up information on everything from how manta rays filter feed and why they are under threat to facts about how scientists use sharks’ dorsal fins to identify individuals in a population. The 3D models are open access, and free to view and download for non-profit use

Although concerted efforts by researchers and educators are turning the tide for sharks and rays, significant challenges remain. More than one-third of these species are under threat of extinction, which means we still have much work to do to change misconceptions, banish misinformation and empower people with useful information so that they can also participate in conservation. 

“The key to all our understanding of sharks – why they do what they do and what is needed to help them recover – relies on there being a foundation of basic, reliable life history information,” says Dr Lea.

The SOSF has a strong legacy of using communication and storytelling to do this, but this most recent commission with innovators from UMASS harnesses the power of creative design and technological advancement. The World of Sharks makes the reach for this kind of information global, but the SOSF is also excited to present very detailed and accurate information at the local scale.

Young visitors to the SOSF Shark Education Centre (SOSF-SEC) in Cape Town, South Africa, have an incredible opportunity to explore the rocky shores nearby in the Dalebrook marine protected area. This kind of in-person experience is irreplaceable, but to dive deeper into the reaches offshore requires technological wizardry and creative flair. A new website for the SOSF-SEC will host a diversity of 3D sharks that are found in False Bay, the largest bay in southern Africa. Children who would never otherwise dip below the waves to see these sharks will now be able to watch, for example, an endemic (found nowhere else in the world) catshark curl into a defensive doughnut-shape. Whether on iPads in the centre or at home online, learners can marvel at the most amazing feats of the sharks that live on their doorstep. Simulating behaviours like spyhopping in white sharks and demonstrating how sharks move in their environment give children an immersive experience, regardless of whether they have access to the ocean.

Still in the throes of the brainstorming and development that will expand these tools to their full potential, the director of the SOSF-SEC, Dr Clova Mabin, enthuses, “We also think that it might be possible to use the tools as a teaching aid in the classroom, to simulate field work. Learners could view them on the iPads and potentially take various measurements, comparing them across the different species.”

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