The Paradigm Predator Project

Statement of purpose: The mission of the Paradigm Predator Project is to provide an open-access platform for marine scientists to address ecological questions in an environmentally-conscious manner. We promote a paradigm shift in research by proposing sailing as an alternative to powered vessel use while conducting science at sea. To do so, we offer the sailing vessel Paradigm (Figure 1) as a resource to any accredited agency, organization, or individual who demonstrates both research capabilities and sufficient need.

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Figure 1. The ship Paradigm is offered by the ParadigmPredator Project asan environmentally-friendly research vessel alternative.


  1. Enable field research that will provide a greater understanding of the marine environment and enhance our ability to undertake appropriate conservation measures, if applicable;
  2. Reduce carbon emissions and limit fuel costs while conducting each project, as compared to using a powered vessel;
  3. Engage with the local communities where Paradigm is based, using the ship as an ambassador for science;
  4. Incorporate a historical approach to marine science by offering each resident or visitor to the ship the opportunity to learn how to or practice sailing.

Project partners: The Paradigm Predator Project is comprised of project partners from University of California, Davis and the Wright Brothers, Inc., a leader in biosciences, research, and industrial gas services (Cincinnati, OH). Any project proposal that requests use of Paradigm will be evaluated by Alexandra McInturf(UC Davis) and Charlie Wright (Wright Brothers, Inc.).  

Research vessel capabilities: Paradigm offers numerous resources for researchers with a high degree of working comfort. It is entirely electric powered with its own generator. Two fuel tanks allow the vessel to operate using the motor for up to one week, if conditions prohibit sailing. At 55 feet in length, Paradigm has the capacity to host up to eight overnight residents, with space to accommodate up to eleven researchers (plus the captain) during day sails. Below deck are a galley, two heads, and three cabins, as well as a common space and navigation station with a computer. All rooms are temperature- and humidity-controlled with electric lighting. The heads are also electric, and the showers heated. In addition, Paradigm hosts a heated cuddy on the deck, which protects against any harsh conditions encountered by those onboard.Observations could be conducted either on deck (including at the bow), up the mast if needed, or through the hard windows in the cuddy. Cameras could also be mounted on the mast and adjusted remotely for projects that require distance sampling (see “Sample research methods” below). At the stern of the ship, a ladder extends down to a storage unit known as the garage. This space contains a dive compressor and space for dive tanks and other equipment. An easily accessible RIB (11 ft) with an outboard motor hangs off the back of the stern, with the alternative option of a larger RIB (15 ft) that can be towed. Perhaps most significantly, the Paradigm Predator Project will offer use of a captain for all research needs (although researchers may be asked to assist in adjusting the sails using the electric winch system on board).

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Figure 2a. The view from the helm of Paradigm.
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Figure 2b. The heated cuddy on deck.
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Figure 2c. The common area and navigation station, found below deck.
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Figure 2d. The storage area found at the stern of the ship, known as the garage.

Sample research methods for use on Paradigm: Below we outline potential research methods for which Paradigm is ideally suited. However, any feasible proposal, regardless of method, will be considered for acceptance by the Paradigm Predator Project.

  1. Transect surveys (boat-based):This will likely be the most feasible type of study for Paradigm. Transect surveys are a prominent ecological data collection method that, in most basic form, entails the researcher following a series of lines (transects) and recording the species found along each line.These are currently in use by wildlife agencies to estimate population abundance for specific species from sightings data (see Figure 3). During the transect survey, the coastline can be divided into survey areas. Each area would be surveyed using a line-transect method. Daily reports can indicate the start/end time of each survey day, as well as the daily weather, crew, and area (transect lines) covered. When any animal (or its potential prey item) is observed (Table1), sightings data can be recorded, including: time sighted, location of vessel, estimated distance from boat and angle of animal compared to boat heading, species sighted, number of individuals/species, size and sex of individual(s), behavior(s) observed, and any observer comments. Finally, environmental data can be collected each hour during the survey, noting time, location of vessel, sea surface temperature, chlorophyll-a concentration (a measure of primary productivity), percentage of dissolved oxygen, and weather condition. Paradigm itself possesses a computer and navigational system to provide information on weather, water temperature, depth and fish presence, with a forward-scan sonar.
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Figure 3. A schematic of line-transect sampling showing a ship on a transect (black line)in part of a study area. When an animal sighting is made, perpendicular distance is measured from the track line (labeled as x). These values of x from multiple sightings in a strip (yellow lines) indicate that detectability decreases with distance from the track line. However, we can quantify this detectability to estimate density of animals within the strip and use this information to estimate the abundance of animals in the entire study area)(NOAA).

Table 1: A potential list of species to be monitored viasurface and dive surveys in California (sample taken from NOAA’s CaliforniaWildlife Watching Handbook).

Cetaceans  (whales, dolphins, porpoises)
Blue, humpback, gray, minke, sperm whales;bottlenose dolphin, Dall’s porpoise, harbor porpoise, long-beaked common dolphin, Pacific white-sided dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, short-beaked common dolphin
Teleosts  (bony fish)
Tuna (Bluefin, yellowfin), sunfish (Mola mola),California barracuda, jack mackerel
Elasmobranchs (sharks)
Basking shark, blue shark, leopard shark,thresher shark, white shark, Pacific Angel shark, bat ray, Pacific electricray, Pacific stingray, swell shark, thornback ray
Marine  birds
Open ocean species: Storm petrels (ashy, black,Leach’s), albatross, Brandt’s cormorant, shearwaters (Buller’s, pink-footed, sooty), auklets (rhinoceros, Cassin’s), common murre, northern fulmars Coastal species: brown pelican, California gull, Caspian tern, cormorants(double-crested, pelagic), murrelets (marbled, Xantus’s), pacific loon, phalarope, pigeon guillemot, scoters (surf, white-winged), western grebe, western cull
Sea  turtles
Green, leatherback, loggerhead, olive ridley
Pinnipeds  (seals, sea lions)
California sea lion, harbor seal, northern elephant seal, northern fur seal, Stellar sea lion
  1. Infrared camera monitoring: Importantly, the use of sailing vessel for transect surveys may improve the current capability of transect and other survey methods. Specifically, the mast of Paradigm (approximately 70 ft.above the water) could provide a vantage point from which to view wildlife at a significantly greater distance than can be achieved by observers on deck. One or multiple infrared camera(s) can be attached to the mast, in order to capture sightings both at distance and at night. These cameras can be linked to computer screens in the vessel’s cabin, and the videos recorded for future viewing.
  2. Drone sightings (air-based surveys): Use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS, or drones) has risen dramatically in the last several years in the scientific realm. Among their other purposes, drones have been used to collect sightings data from the air, provide footage to media outlets, and quantify social interactions and abundance in a variety of animal populations. In addition to boat-based surveys, drones could provide a new perspective on the types of behavior and number of individuals observed throughout a given monitoring period. Collected during calm conditions to increase the probability of observing surfaced animals and ensure the recovery of the equipment, aerial data could be used to supplement information gathered during the boat-based surveys. Specifically, drones are capable of running pre-programmed transects independently for short periods of time. At the very least, Paradigm could provide a platform for gathering proof-of-concept data to validate a potentially valuable research method.
  3. Underwater monitoring (sub-surface surveys): Many ecological studies use dive surveys to examine how coastal communities are structured. Depending on the research question, these surveys could provide information on conspecific (same-species) interactions, predator-prey relationships, and abundance estimates in aa given area. Paradigm is an ideal vessel for conducting such surveys, as it is equipped with a compressor and space for 10 dive tanks onboard. It also hosts a highly accessible RIB for diver recovery or transportation.
  4. Biotelemetry and biologging: Since the middle of the twentieth century, ultrasonic biotelemetry and biologging methods have been used in the underwater environment to address research questions at a variety of scales, from observing fine-scale behaviors to tracking migratory patterns and monitoring space use. Such techniques are particularly useful when applied to highly mobile marine predators that often move beyond areas where they can be easily observed. While tagging from the deck of Paradigm may prove challenging without the appropriate equipment, one of the ship’s RIBs (11 or 15 ft) allows the flexibility to operate using the main vessel as a base platform while pursuing and tagging the target organism from a smaller, more maneuverable boat. The RIB can be towed or hang from the back of the ship for quick and easy deployment. Ideally, combining survey data with any biotelemetry and biologging component would significantly increase Paradigm’s scientific value and the longevity of its impact.

Application Procedure: Researchers interested in participating in the Paradigm Predator Project will be asked to submit a proposal outlining the intended use of the ship. This should be received by the project partners at least six months prior to the project start date. Project partners will evaluate the proposals for acceptance based on the following criteria:

  1. Scientific feasibility of the study.
  2. Demonstrated financial need for use of a vessel.
  3. Alignment with the mission of the project; specifically, the use of sailing to provide an environmentally friendly alternative to powered vessels, and the ability of the ship to serve as an outreach platform.

In addition, applications should include a detailed budget, as researchers will be required to contribute to vessel maintenance costs (i.e. mooring, fuel costs)and cover travel/living costs for resident scientists and any equipment not already onboard. Successful applicants will be expected to submit to the project partners a formal progress report every six months, and a final report at the conclusion of the project. They will also be encouraged to share their results on more widely accessible media platforms.

To learn more about the Paradigm Predator Project, contact Charlie Wright at