Robert Snow - At Sea with OCEARCH

October 16, 2015 - February 7, 2016

Artist Lecture and Reception: Friday, October 16, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Tiger Shark Periscopes Release, Ningaloo Reef Western Australia, 2015 by Robert Snow

"Sharks are the lions of the ocean; they are the balance keepers, and if we lose them there won't be any fish." - Chris Fischer, OCEARCH Expedition Leader, 2012


Sharks have occupied their position near the top of the food chain in lakes and oceans for millions of years but are now threatened by extinction due to overfishing, pollution and the destruction of their habitats. The popularity of films such as Jaws and the media coverage that shark incidents receive have further perpetuated misinformation and myth. In this poignant and topical series, photographer Robert Snow travels with scientists and researchers around the globe to study shark migration patterns to better understand these elusive and often misunderstood creatures.

In 2013, Robert Snow took his first assignment with OCEARCH, a non-profit organization dedicated to apex predator education and research, which began with an Atlantic Ocean expedition in Jacksonville, FL. Since this time, Robert has participated in 6 expeditions across the globe, from the United States to the Galapagos and Australia, documenting marine scientists at work, often in treacherous waters while in close proximity to some of the largest predators of the sea-risking their lives to better understand these mysterious beings in order to dispel myths and spread awareness as to the important role sharks play in our global ecosystem.


I was first given the opportunity to work with OCEARCH as the vessel's still photographer in 2013 to document an expedition to catch and tag a mature great white shark off the coast of Jacksonville, FL. While I knew it would be an opportunity of a lifetime, I didn't think it was possible to catch a great white shark in Florida.

Weeks later, on a cold, rainy day, there was a call on the handheld radio, the fishing crew had caught a 14 ft. 6 in., 2000 lb. great white shark. Once the shark was on the lift, a team of scientists tagged it, took fin clip and blood samples, and removed parasites- all at the pace of a pit crew. The shark was named Lydia and released back into the ocean. Since her tagging in 2013, Lydia has become somewhat of a celebrity - she has logged over 56,000 miles on the Global Shark Tracker and has over 23,000 Twitter followers.

While I had experience working in and around the water, I wasn't an experienced underwater photographer. Most of my assignments were advertising projects, photo-shoots that were planned for weeks at a time, but sometimes lasted less than an hour. This project had a different pace - traveling to distant and remote locations, disconnected from the world and telling the story as it happened.

At times we would spend weeks at sea, never knowing when we would catch a shark. I had to be patient, yet prepared. This downtime provided me the opportunity to tell a more complete story, and I worked to capture the essence of each voyage - the environment aboard the ship, the scientists and the data they collected, the crew, the natural landscape and the species native to each area.

Amidst the natural beauty, we came across some decimated habitats - places that had been over-fished by commercial long-line fishing fleets. In some of these places, sharks had been commercially fished at a rate that completely removed them from the ecosystem. Seeing these underwater wastelands proved the danger the oceans face once the apex predators are removed. Without sharks, the oceans' entire food chain is out-of-balance. The oceans provide half of our planet's oxygen and an out-of-balance ecosystem will affect the health of our planet.

This project has been a learning experience and I hope that sharing the images will bring a better understanding of the risk sharks currently face. I started this project with a fear of sharks, like most people, however, I now have a great respect for them and a better understanding of the danger sharks face as a species. Working with OCEARCH has been one of the greatest adventures in my career and one of the most rewarding. I am thankful for the opportunity to share my experiences through photography, and it is my hope that through education and awareness, we can find more balanced ways to coexist with the many unique and varied creatures of the sea. - Robert Snow


While shark conservation is becoming a global priority, a limited understanding of shark migration and mating behaviors has hindered the development of effective conservation strategies. As a result, the nonprofit OCEARCH was founded in 2007 to fill in the gaps. In a collaborative environment established by Founding Chairman and Expedition Leader Chris Fischer, OCEARCH enables leading researchers and institutions to generate previously unattainable data on the movement, biology and health of sharks to protect their future, by giving researchers approximately 15 minutes of access to live, mature great white sharks (and other species) to conduct up to 12 studies, including tagging and sampling. The data collected is used to identify the migration and critical habitats for the species. To date, 82 researchers from 41 institutions have collaborated with OCEARCH, with over three-dozen research papers completed or in progress.

"What we've done is cracked the code on handling these 4,000-pound animals, giant white sharks, tiger sharks, and given scientists safe access to them for about 15 minutes so they can leverage the latest technology. So for the first time in history we document their full migratory ranges and discover their mating and birthing sites, and once we have that information, we have the fundamental dataset we need as the building block for the future of the ocean and we can begin to manage policy to bring our sharks and other balance-keepers back to abundant numbers." - Chris Fischer, OCEARCH Expedition Leader, 2012
 Great Barrier Tiger Shark, Cairns, Australia, 2015 
by Robert Snow 
During the tagging of mature sharks, a SPOT (Smart Position and Temperature) tag is mounted on the shark's dorsal fin, providing up to 5 years of tracking. This tag transmits the shark's location via satellite - whenever the shark's fin breaks the surface - and that location is sent to OCEARCH. OCEARCH then open-sources and shares that data, in near-real time, for free, to the public through the Global Shark Tracker or by downloading the Global Shark Tracker App available for Apple and Android platforms, enabling students and the public to learn alongside PhDs.

OCEARCH expeditions are conducted worldwide aboard the M/V OCEARCH, which serves as both a mothership and at-sea laboratory. Powered by five Cat engines, the M/V OCEARCH is capable of Global Circumnavigation. Through the support of Caterpillar and other partners such as Costa, Yamaha, Contender, SAFE boats and Mustad, OCEARCH has completed 22 expeditions to date; by 2016, a total of 26 will be completed.

To view live data, visit www.ocearch.org or download the companion tracker app for mobile devices. To keep up to date, follow them on Instagram and Twitter @ocearch.


Robert Snow was born on the Gulf coast of Florida and grew up playing sports and exploring the waterways around the state. After working as a photo assistant for some of the top names in the industry for almost a decade, Robert began working as a freelance photographer specializing in editorial portraits, lifestyle, and sports photography. He has since worked on ad campaigns for Fortune 500 companies and his images have been published in numerous publications, including Outside Magazine, the NY Times, and the Huffington Post, among others. While based in Florida, his assignments have taken him across the globe, and many of his more recent projects have involved close collaborations with nonprofit and humanitarian organizations, covering a range of environmental and humanitarian issues.


Follow Robert Snow on Twitter and Instagram @robertsnowphoto

Click here for more information about the artist.

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