A giant manta ray swims gracefully in the Revillagigedo Archipelago, about 300 miles off Baja California, Mexico. Scripps Oceanography graduate student Joshua Stewart captured this photo during a recent expedition to attach cameras or “Crittercams” on mantas for the first time, in partnership with National Geographic’s Crittercam team. The resulting footage will help researchers learn more about mantas’ underwater movements, diving behavior, and use of specific habitats. They hope to then use this information to help reduce or mitigate bycatch.
“Oceanic manta rays are incredibly social and curious animals,” said Stewart, a recent recipient of the prestigious Switzer Environmental Fellowship for his efforts to better understand and protect oceanic manta and mobula rays.
“The friendly mantas of the Revillagigedo Islands provided a perfect opportunity to test the technology and attachment systems, allowing us to get close and suction-cup cameras to the tops of their heads. We attached a Crittercam to this friendly female moments after this photo was taken, but most of the footage she captured was of our research team as she decided to hang out with us at the dive site for the rest of the afternoon.” (View the manta Crittercam footage here.)
Learn more about Stewart’s recent accomplishments and efforts to protect mantas here: https://scripps.ucsd.edu/news/scripps-grad-student-receives-prestigious-environmental-fellowship