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Lesson Plan


What’s Up BRUVS?  Using Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems (BRUVS) to Spy on Sharks and Other Marine Life



By:  Dr. Craig O’Connell and the O’Seas Team

Lesson Plan on what it’s like to be a shark scientist:  Includes video data collection, techniques on how to identify sharks, techniques on how to identify individual sharks, and critical thinking skills

Expected Time To Complete:  17 Days at 30 Minutes Per Day (lesson plan aims are below and in pink)


1.  Overview


This Lesson Plan/Challenge will focus on video data collected from Baited Remote Underwater Video System (BRUVS; see Figure 1).  This technology is a non-invasive technology that allows scientists to survey the seafloor without the need to go in the water.  In fact, sometimes our presence and sounds associated with SCUBA diving can influence what marine life sticks around.  What this means is fish and other sharks can be shy and elusive and therefore, if we are SCUBA diving and making a lot of noise underwater, we may never get a true idea of what animals inhabit an environment (Note: Unlike what you think sharks are like, they are not maneaters and normally just swim away from you when you go in the water).  So BRUVS can monitor behavior and record species that may otherwise be negatively affected by the presence of divers.  The beauty of BRUVS is that they are non-invasive, meaning we don’t have to capture and stress the animals out that we are working with.  We are simply spying on the environment and trying to collect as much data as possible to see if any patterns exist.















Figure 1.  The frames of the advanced baited remote underwater video systems (BRUVS) that were used in Montauk, NY.  These devices contain different types of bait in the bait cages, a 1080p GoPro 4 facing the cages to capture the interactions, and a line that connects to a surface buoy so these can be easily deployed and retrieved. 


For this lesson plan/challenge, you are getting to watch ACTUAL scientific videos that I’ve collected from places such as New York, USA, Madagascar, South Africa, the Bahamas and Mexico.  I want you to watch this footage with patience. While the footage is edited so you will see marine life in EVERY youtube video, you won’t see marine life every second.  You are getting a REAL glimpse as to what it is like to do this type of research and also how rewarding it is if you wait and carefully pan through the footage. Sometimes you will see something at the very edge of visibility and sometimes you will see sharks up close and personal. Read below to see what the objectives are and how you can achieve these objectives.

2.  Objectives

  1. Students will learn how a non-invasive technology, called BRUVS (Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems), can be used to learn about the environment, quantify shark species, and quantify how many individuals of a species are using this environment.

  2. Through active learning, students will learn how to identify different species of sharks. 
  3. Through active learning, students will learn how to use the characteristics of each individual shark (e.g. dorsal fin notching, pigmentation variation, size, scars) to quantity how many different sharks within a species (e.g. individuals) are using these habitats.
  4. Students will learn the patience that is required to conduct scientific research and how multiple steps are required in order to interpret the data.

  5. Students will make their own hypotheses (educated guesses) and try to understand why different environments (e.g. Montauk, New York, USA vs. Bimini, Bahamas) are home to different shark species.

  6. Students will learn how to graphically represent their data so others can also understand their findings.

3.  Steps

  1. Visit our Youtube Channel:  Click Here

  2. Click on Videos

  3. Click on the appropriate video.  These videos will be listed as “O’Seas Conservation Foundation COVID-19 Lesson Plan” followed by “Day xxx”.  Select the appropriate day that you are on for the challenge.  For Day 1, this is the appropriate video:  Click Here

  4. Click on the HD options in the lower right hand corner of the screen and change the resolution to 1080p                                                                                                                                                                                                             

  5. Start watching the video.  

  6. If you see a shark, use your knowledge and the Species ID Photos provided on the NOAA Placards (You can find these under our lesson plan tab or Click Here) to try and identify the species.  Pay close attention to these species:  white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), sandbar shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus), dusky shark (Carcharhinus obscurus), common thresher shark (Alopias vulpinus), blue shark (Prionace glauca), dusky smoothhound dogfish (aka smooth dogfish shark – Mustelus canis), and spiny dogfish shark (Squalus acanthias)

  7. If you see a GREAT WHITE SHARK (the proper scientific name is ‘White Shark’ – Carcharodon carcharias), please use the information below (see 'How to Identify White Sharks') to try and identify whether the white shark is a new or previously sighted individual (Note:  each side of the shark is different so to properly identify it, you need to compare the same sides of the shark). 

  8. Take Screenshots and keep track of the sightings (e.g. sometimes making a database can help).  To make a database, store these photos in a folder on your computer and name each photo.  For instance, the first screenshot can be renamed “WhiteShark1”.  Make sure you pay very close attention to our ‘How to Identify White Sharks’ section to ensure you are not mis-identifying previously viewed sharks as new individuals (Hint:  You need photos of each side of the shark .  If you mis-identify a shark, your final shark count at the end will be incorrect and you won’t win the challenge).  With each NEW shark, place that shark in your database with a new label (e.g. WhiteShark2) and don’t be afraid to add as much information as possible just in case you have to go back to that video clip to review the sighting.  For instance, you may want to note down the Youtube clip number and the time of the sighting so you can easily access it later on in the exercise.

  9. Once you have identified the species and quantity of each species of shark within each youtube video, add the data to a bar graph (This is optional but may make interpretation of the videos easier, see Figure 2) so you can keep track throughout the course of the challenge.  You will not be asked to share your bar graph (unless you want to); however, you will have to correctly address the following CHALLENGE AIMS to win the challenge:

    1. Properly identify how many different white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) appear in all the videos (Middle and High School Students)

    2. Properly identify how many different shark species appear in the videos (Middle and High School Students)

    3. Properly identify 5 different fish species that appear in the videos (common names and make sure to use the location of the clips to help you identify what type of fish they are) (High School Students Only)

    4. Provide a hypothesis as to why certain sharks appear in certain locations (High School Students Only).                     

  10. Once all 17 days of videos have been posted and you made your analysis, submit your answers to the four aims above (a-d).  If you are in middle school, you are only required to address aim a and b whereas high school students are required to address aims a-d.  Please send your answers to and also provide your name and grade level. The first 50 students to get all for criteria correct, will receive an O’Seas Conservation Foundation sticker and a hand-signed great white shark photograph from Dr. Craig O’Connell!  

Good Luck and have fun!  Don’t be afraid to ask questions in the Youtube comments section. This is our first Lesson Plan so there are bound to be many questions.  If this is successful, we will have another video-based Shark Lesson Plan in May!

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Figure 2.  An example of a bar graph that you can make to help keep track of your results.

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