Detecting Mediterranean White Sharks with environmental DNA and Particle Abundance Predictions


Venice, Italy
May 27 - 29, 2024

Program Overview

White sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) are among the most widespread and studied predators in the ocean. However, their conservation status is poor in many ocean sectors. In the Mediterranean Sea, they are listed as critically endangered. It is now crucial to facilitate more research and exploration to advance knowledge and improve the conservation of this subpopulation.

Specifically, in increasing researcher's understanding of their distribution and spatial structure. Detecting environmental DNA (eDNA) that has been shed by white sharks can reveal their occurrence and movement patterns. Opportunistic sightings of elusive Mediterranean white sharks are rare, so the utility of detecting eDNA and refining the detection workflow is imperative for monitoring their population. Furthermore, oceanographic simulations can provide novel insight into the trajectory of eDNA particles in the open ocean, helping to determine the location of seasonal eDNA hot spots. From combining eDNA simulations with historical observations of the animal, the SeaQL Lab has developed a systematic approach to increase the likelihood of detecting a white shark in the Mediterranean.


Results from this expedition will inform occurrence patterns of white sharks in the Adriatic Sea and validate the researcher’s eDNA particle simulations. This expedition will produce valuable knowledge for refining traditional eDNA methods and citizen science initiatives in order to increase the scale and intensity of eDNA sampling.

Expedition Summary

From May 27-29, 2024, The International SeaKeepers Society assisted researcher Jeremy Jenrette from Virginia Tech’s SeaQL Lab in conducting research on environmental DNA abundance of white sharks in the Adriatic Sea aboard DISCOVERY Yacht TE STREEP. Samples were collected from nine different sites varying in eDNA abundance, according to the researcher’s model, along the route from Vlore, Albania to Venice, Italy. A total of 37 water samples were collected using a Niskin Bottle deployed to 10 meters and 30 meters. The collected water samples were then processed through a specialized filter designed to capture the environmental DNA and will be further analyzed for eDNA of critically endangered Lamnids in the Adriatic Sea, Carcharodon carcharias and Isurus oxyrinchus, upon the researchers return to the SeaQL Lab. The research team also tested out a citizen science eDNA sampling kit designed to scale this research that will be available to vessels operating in the Mediterranean through SeaKeepers’ DISCOVERY Yacht Program.

RSA Insurance are proud to support the work of The International SeaKeepers Society as their 2024 Corporate Citizen Science Programme Partner.


Vlore, Albania to Venice, Italy - Adriatic Sea

Duration of Project

The SeaQL lab embarked on their first “White Shark Chase” expedition in June of 2020, and are continuing the chase today.

Research Team

  • Francesco Ferretti, Assistant Professor, Virginia Tech
  • Brendan Shea, PhD Candidate, Virginia Tech
  • Chiara Gambardella, PhD Candidate, Stazione Zoologica
  • Stefano Moro, PhD, Stazione Zoologica


Photo Gallery

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