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Leopard shark research

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Take a GoPro camera, a helium balloon and a school of sharks. What you get is the perfect view of animal interaction. A Scripps researcher is taking his shark study to new heights.

Five years ago, I spent a day on a small boat with Dr. Andy Nosal, who at the time was a Scripps grad student hunting for answers tagging leopard sharks. Now armed with even more resources, he wants to know if these sharks are social. Think Paris Hilton on the town. Does she go to La Jolla Shores for the view and fine dining, or the company of other sharks?

Andy's research has shown that females, especially pregnant ones, like to get together in a corner of La Jolla Shores.

"We're really lucky here in San Diego that we have this site where hundreds of leopard sharks come every year. These sharks are completely harmless and they're kind of a friendly ambassador to sharks in general," he said.

That's why you'll see swarms of snorkelers bobbing in the ocean to see sharks close up. Why do these sharks choose this marine protected area? The answer comes from high above the beach, using a camera attached to a helium balloon.

"So we're getting aerial video of the sharks and then we're using special software to simultaneously track every single shark in the field of view," Andy explained.

This is a collaborative project with Princeton University, the developers of the software tracking these social interactions.

Nosal hopes his aerial research will lead to groundbreaking information on shark behavior.

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