Animal Bioacoustics

Technology. Ecology. Noise

Animal Bioacoustics

New Normal

I’ve spent a lot of time on the Henry B. Bigelow. Or at least it feels that way. The familiar chirps and beeps pinging at all hours, the frigid temperature of the dry lab, the way the marine smell lingers on the back deck on a humid day and the salty ocean air makes my skin feel dry and sticky at the same time. I know exactly what clothing to bring for the various jobs I will have, how sleep in my athwartships bunk in rough weather, and that (unless I’m really unlucky) the satellite Internet will allow me to iMessage my friends and family back on land. I’ve been enjoying boat life for years now and I find so much comfort in the little routines.

After departing another ship following a trying journey this spring, I spent a long time thinking about why I couldn’t embrace the quiet weeks at sea that I usually love. Usually spending time offshore offers perspective, fresh air and space to think through ideas and goals and potential plans, but on that trip I spent most of the time wishing I was back at home. Back home at…work? Instead of embracing the break from daily life in Oregon, I was overcome with anxiety about the progress I wasn’t making towards my degree. Perhaps the jumpy response of the ship to rough weather translated directly to my restlessness?

But when my friend and colleague asked me if I was ready to head back to sea this summer on the Bigelow, I didn’t hesitate to tell her “yes”, I was ready. How could I not be – I love sailing on the Bigelow and working as a passive acoustics observer. It is amazing to listen to the whistles, clicks, and buzzes of cetaceans around us in real-time. One of my non-acoustician friends used to describe my job as “eavesdropping on whales”, which, sounds a bit silly, but really is a pretty accurate description of what I do on the boat. The days are long, but most of them are good.

In previous years I would balance my time in the lab with breaks outside to try and spot the animals I spent so many hours listening to. But this year the cruise nears conclusion and my tube of sunscreen is still full. Furiously trying to keep up with my academic responsibilities has limited the number of dolphins I’ve seen, but will allow me some peace returning to Oregon knowing that I won’t have weeks of ignored emails to attend to.

There is a quiet isolation that develops with time spent as a graduate student in academic research. Digging deeper into our own holes of scientific obsession, our theses wouldn’t be viable projects if someone else was already working on the same questions.  I am aware of this at school, but the camaraderie of being surrounded by other students takes away a little of the loneliness. But at sea, secluded in my cabin to focus on my project, it feels more pronounced. A couple days ago I was analyzing a recording and identified a useful sound clip. Excitedly I considered who I could share my news with…but quickly realized that probably no one else would be quite as thrilled to look at a spectrogram of wind noise.

The next morning I woke up before my alarm and, not wanting to disturb my sleeping roommate, I got ready quickly and went to begin the daily set-up routines for our equipment in the dry lab. Ready to go half an hour early, I stood out on the back deck to watch the sunrise. And there, unhurried and under-caffeinated but still feeling accomplished from my thesis progress the day before, I finally reconnected with the sublime peace of being at sea.

This summer has been an experiment in re-adjusting my expectations, but I think I’m figuring out how to balance and prioritize. While I spend most of my hours staring at screens, moving between my laptop and the acoustics workstation in the dry lab, I keep a walkie-talkie on the desk just in case someone spots an animal close to the ship; it’s a lot harder to see a blue whale from my office in Oregon.

 

AFFOGATO – Day 14 – A Day in the Life

I haven’t posted in a week? Poor blogging, Selene!

Ok as promised, I wanted to post about what our day-to-day life has been like out here. Amazingly, today is our last day! I am on shore right now, making small adjustments to glider that we will pick up at noon. The rest of the team is out picking up the DASBRs and QUEphone. They will come in, we will unload gear, then go back out to get the glider.

After almost two weeks of going out everyday, we got the system down pretty well. We got stronger, and faster, and spirits remained high throughout!

Days start early – up around 5 am, for a 5:30 departure. 3 of the crew went out each day, because there wasn’t really room on the boat for 4 + all the gear, and that way we had a person on land who could give us instrument locations if we had trouble finding them.

Our main objective was to pick up all our floating/drifting recorders, and move them back up current (to the southwest) so they could drift over our moored instruments, and along the glider path, again over 24 hours.

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Empty deck…soon those boxes will be filled with line!

We started each morning with an empty deck (except for a few empty tubs where line goes).

It took about 1:15 to transit out to where the instruments were floating. We had GPS coordinates for about where they were, and then half of them also had these really awesome dog trackers attached to the mast. When we were within 3 miles, the handheld receiver would point us in the direction of that “dog”. They are made for hunting, so if the floats didn’t move very fast it would alert us that our “dog” had “treed a quarry.” That was always good for a laugh. Then, using those to get to the general area, we could use relative positions of the others to find them. Some days lighting was better than others, but we always found them eventually.

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Danielle demonstrating the art of pulling line. Selene demonstrating the art of putting your finger in a picture. Note: this was the CALMEST MOST BEAUTIFUL DAY ON THE WATER!!

Once we found an instrument, we marked its recovery location, and started to pull line. This was the fun part 🙂 the DASBRs have a surface float, and then 100 m of line down to a weight. Near the bottom of that is the two hydrophones, and depending on the type of DASBR, somewhere in there is the recording device and batteries. We all decided on our favorite and least favorite types of line to pull, and we’d share the work so it never seemed that bad! Each one took about 15 min to recover.

Every other day we recovered the QUEphone as well. It was drifting at 500 m, where the currents were slower, so it took two days to pass the HARPs. For that, Haru would text us when it surfaced, at about 8:00, then we would go grab it. Easy peasy.

After everything was loaded in the boat, we would head down to our deployment location.

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Full boat! Let’s get this stuff back in the water.

We made minor adjustments to the deployment location each day, after looking at the currents from the day before. Everything stayed in formation as best as we hoped…which was awesome! The formation is critical to us being able to localize the animals we record. Heading to the deployment location took about 30 mins, where we would then drive from point to point making a rectangle. Letting the line out was super fun (compared to pulling it). If we had the QUEphone we would chuck it (gently of course) into the water, and head back in, another 1:30 transit.

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First, in goes the float.

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Then, let out the 100 m of line…

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All the line is out, ready for the last part, the anchor weight!

 

While we were out there we did our part to collect mylar balloons we encountered (Please think twice about purchasing them…they don’t break down for a VERY LONG TIME and all that shiny plastic and string can look like a tasty treat to marine life). We also collected water samples in the vicinity of animals, for our the Cetacean Conservation and Genetics Lab at OSU, for an eDNA project Holger is working on with them.

Look at all these balloons…

Holger collecting a water sample behind a common dolphin.

Holger collecting a water sample behind a common dolphin.

We usually got back to the lab in early afternoon, again with an empty deck. Afternoons were filled with looking at instrument paths, planning for the next day, starting to look at data, discussing science, celebrating the good news for the Vaquita, and sometimes taking naps 🙂

The Talking Earth

*This post is dedicated to my mom, who taught me how to read and how to listen*

When I was a small child my mother read a book called “The Talking Earth” out loud to my sister and I. As an adult I can’t quite remember the details, but it was about a Seminole girl alone in the woods interacting with plants, animals, wind and water in an effort to regain her faith in the power of nature. I vaguely remember her saving an abandoned otter pup and nursing it back to health and something lovely about a panther. What I poignantly recall, however, is a passage in the book about listening to the language of the earth as she nurses the otter; the beating hearts and warm bodies of mammals, the beating wings of the birds, and the sounds of rain and wind that collectively gives all animals a way of understanding the world. Book inspired a lot of thoughts in me as a child.

Now, I spend a lot of time thinking about one species, as it communicates with other animals of the same species, underwater, in the Beardslee Island Complex, in Glacier Bay Alaska. I dream about humpback whales calling in these waters at night (and often as I nap between shifts throughout our long days). But living on this island does something very kind for me, it speaks about more than just the whales. So a few days ago I stood alone on the beach at 4:07 am preparing to survey for whales and as the sun rose I took a few moments to listen to what the earth had to say to me.

The tide was shifting; I could see the water converging at our survey point. The clouds were rolling in on a southwest wind, and the fog was preparing to slowly take over the coastline in front of me. The loons called to each other in the pink turquoise rising sun. The family of oystercatchers that we watched last year gave one another their high cackling good morning call. The gulls squabbled, the sea lions yawned angry yawns. The earth woke up in pastel glory. When I was experiencing my first Alaskan winter I wrote that the Alaskan sun doesn’t burn, it blushes. This particular morning at 4am, the sun blushed and I was there to experience it.

It was a lovely moment for me. One of the few moments on the island when I was truly afforded solitude. Fieldwork is a strange bedfellow- the six of us are isolated on this island, yet we are never out of earshot of one another. I joke that we are isolated, together- and at 4am if given the chance to sleep in, our team will take it (and deserve it). Why I stayed up to survey myself? I’m not sure. Maybe I needed the space. Maybe when I woke up to check the weather it was too beautiful to go back to bed, and too foggy to be worth rousing my snuggling crew.

I’ve been going back and forth to that moment in my mind and it reminds me again of the book, The Talking Earth that my mother read to me as a child. It isn’t just about sound of the earth that I found remarkable, though certainly sound is what resonates with me, it is about the subtle signals that the earth gives all those who inhabit it, humans included. It requires an attentiveness to hear the messages in nature, and therefore a desire to listen in the first place. Subtly is a divinely natural quality.

I realize in writing this that this is important to me because it’s how I try to run my field team. With grace and intention, routine and subtlety, with the expectation of the best of my crew, and with consistent communication. Sometimes I succeed, often I fail, but it is in this emulation of nature’s voice that I think we can both collect the best data possible (you can go back here to learn more about the technical rigors of our field collection), while absorbing the many lessons that come from simply observing a place for as long as we are privileged to observe the waters of Strawberry Island.

The scientist in me doesn’t sleep through these sorts of introspections. My job, among many in science, is to try and take these intangibles and make them tangible. My job as a creative human is to do this without losing the essence of what makes these observations incredible. So I won’t deny that in my grand sunrise moment I grinned a little knowing that all of the glorious things I was listening to were being recorded by a two tiny terrestrial recorders that were lent to me by the Cornell Lab or Ornithology (thanks to my advisor Holger and BRP!). When I’m not in the field I’ll post some clips of the Talking Earth here in Glacier Bay, I’d encourage you to close your eyes and imagine being here. Here is a photo from my 4am sunrise to get you started.
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Your Alaskan Correspondent,

Miche

 

AFFOGATO Twitter Journal

AFFOGATO – Day 7

Field updates – coming at you.

It’s Day 7, and I’ve got the morning off from going out on the boat, so I figured I could do a little blog updating. Jay, Holger, and Danielle are out on the small boat today, and Dave sadly left us to go back to Oregon yesterday.

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An affogato, served atop the Harbor Reefs awesome table cloths.

Most important update – we HAVE drank/ate? affogato’s!! On Friday evening we walked into town for a fancy dinner out, to Two Harbors FINEST (and only) dining establishment, the Harbor Reef Restaurant. Jay was thoughtful enough to ask the waitress if she could make affogato’s for dessert, and once he explained what they were (espresso over ice cream) she said “No problem!” It was the perfect way to wrap up our first week here. (EDIT: I did not, in fact, have any of the affogato. I don’t like coffee. I was called out for this shortly after posting. I apologize for my deception)

Second most important update – we’ve got a QUEphone in the water!! (or maybe more important?)

On Thursday, Jay, Dave, and I went out at 6 with the plan of recovering 6 DASBRs, redeploying those and adding the final 2 DASBRs to the mix. (More info on DASBRs here. Drifting Acoustic Spar Buoy Recorder…I just learned a spar buoy is a long thin buoy. Fun facts!). After picking up the DASBRs, I went to prep the QUEphone for deployment, and guess what? I forgot the communication cable. I had the laptop, the battery, the spare battery, the serial cable for the computer, the alligator clips off the serial connector, but not the one connector that goes on the QUEphone’s 6-pin port. IDIOT!!!

Needless to say I was really kicking myself. BUT, Dave came to the rescue. He explained to me that of the 6 pins in the connector, its likely only one of them was needed for the communication, and using some electrical tape and a piece of wire from Jay’s toolbox, we might be able to do it. We contacted Haru (who designed the QUEphone) over the satellite phone, and he told us exactly which pin we needed to connect to. He was definitely worried about is doing this…and he emphasized how if we touch ANY OF THE OTHER PINS with the wire then we would fry the whole thing. Dave and I felt we could do it, very very carefully, and, well, the QUEphone is out there now soooo it worked!!

Dave's McGyver handy-work.

Dave’s McGyver handy-work.

Dave cradled the QUEphone while I ran the self tests, then we disconnected and it sunk, like we hoped! We found out it originally didn’t sink on our first day because it was too light. It sinks by deflating a buoyancy bladder, and the settings were incorrect for our environment, it was set to deflate to 110 cc, but we needed it to deflate to 55 cc. Once we had fixed that, away it went! Woo!! My embarrassment over my packing error quickly went away. (well maybe not completely, I’m still pretty ashamed….)

Holger excited to re-deploy the QUEphone yesterday. And Jay smiling in the background.

Holger excited to re-deploy the QUEphone yesterday. And Jay smiling in the background.

Since then, the grind has begun. Every morning, out at 5:30 (we start early to beat the wind that picks up in the afternoon), pull several hundred meters of line, let out several hundred meters of line, repeat. Every other day we pick up the QUEphone and drive it back south so it can drift north again.

Glider is also still flying pretty well. So we will continue on like this. Stay tuned for “AFFOGATO – A day in the life”

AFFOGATO – Day 4

Day 4 already? How did that happen??

I’m happy to report ALL our instruments are now in the water and happily recording marine mammals in the Catalina Basin (lots I hope!).

Day 1 we did some testing at SWFSC, and got everything prepped for our transit out to the basin. Testing went as planned, and so we loaded the boat and had some time to kill at the harbor. Ate good seafood and hung out in the sun. I got sunburned already of course.

Science team science-ing at sunset on the way out of San Diego

Science team science-ing at sunset on the way out of San Diego

At about 7 pm we departed San Diego Bay for our overnight transit out to the basin. We decided (we?? it was Holger’s idea…) to get up and start deploying instruments as soon as we arrived on site, which was scheduled to be 4 AM. Yup. Moonlight deployment. That was a first, but fortunately the moon was full.

The currents in this area can be complicated, so we had come with somewhat of a plan, but knew we would have to play it by ear. So when we first arrived we deployed one of Jay Barlow’s floating drifters (DASBR) and watched its drift for about an hour. We deployed the first mini-HARP at its planned location, and then after assessing the drifting buoy, we went to deploy the second mini-HARP. Fortunately we deployed it right where we thought we would! That made things for the glider much easier. After getting both HARPs in, we picked up the first DASBR and drove back south to deploy a whole array of 4 DASBRs. This is how we will localize the animals, by using triangulation of calls recorded on the different instruments.

While this was going on, I got to work prepping the QUEphone, and this is where things finally started to NOT go perfectly as planned. The first QUEphone just would not sink! Weird…wanting an expensive piece of electronic equipment to sink, but that is exactly what we wanted. The QUEphone is designed to sink up to 2000 m, and drift along with the currents for 24 hours, then come back up to the surface and check in. Well, when it stays at the surface we can’t record anything, and that is not what we want. So we brought that one back on board. Lucky for us we brought a second QUEphone just in case. Unlucky for us, it also had issues, but it had communication issues. We tried deploying this one as well, waited a  while, and ended up recovering it when it too wouldn’t dive and was having iridium communication problems.

Holger, Q003, and sunrise.

Holger, Q003, and sunrise.

The QUEphone that wouldn't sink...

The QUEphone that wouldn’t sink…

And last, but certainly not least, we deployed my beloved glider, SG607, aka Will. Will got a new sticker before deployment, and this deployment went super smoothly! In large part due to the big swim step on the back of the boat where we could carefully lower the glider and hold it off while we did some final tests, and also with many thanks to Anatoli Erofeev, a glider pilot in CEOAS at OSU who has basically taught me everything I know about glider piloting that isn’t in the pilot binder (which is possibly more valuable when it comes to troubleshooting 🙂

Goodbye Will, collect lots of data for me please!

Goodbye Will, collect lots of data for me please! Photo credit: D. Harris

Will's new sticker. It's important to show the instruments you care about them with gifts.

Will’s new sticker. It’s important to show the instruments you care about them with gifts.

 

After all those (mostly) successful deployments, we headed to Wrigley Marine Science Center, where we will be based for the next two weeks. We arrived earlier than we had planned (thanks to our 4 am start…) but that was good because, well, we had A LOT of gear to unload and unpack.

Hmmm I'm not sure we have enough stuff

Hmmm I’m not sure we have enough stuff. Photo credit: H. Klinck.

So, this post is turning out to be more about Day 2 then Day 4 huh?

Well Day 3, a field team of Danielle, Jay, and Dave went out to move the 4 DASBRs back down south (They had drifted a perfect 12 km NE and needed to be reset) and deployed two more.

Day 4, Dave, Jay, and I went out and recovered/redeployed 6 DASBRs and deployed 2 more. PLUS we deployed the QUEphone – yay!!!! It worked, I’m stoked, but also very tired, and will write another post about this tomorrow.

 

 

AFFOGATO – Day 1

Let the glider/float field work begin!

Late lastnight, Holger, Dave Mellinger, Danielle Harris, and I arrived in San Diego to start our two week field stint where we deploy EVERY TYPE OF RECORDER EVER (not really…but close).

We are here to conduct field work for a project called a framework for cetacean density estimation using slow-moving underwater vehicles, or AFFOGATO for short. Don’t ask how that acronym came from that title…it had to be coffee themed, and it works.

This field work is just part of a larger project, looking to try and apply density estimation techniques to my favorite – gliders. We will be deploying a glider, a QUEphone, two HARPs and 8 DASBR buoys, all in the same location off of Catalina Island. We will be able to localize animals using the DASBRs, and compare recording capabilities of the glider, QUEphone, and HARPs. Similar to what we did this winter, but not on a Navy Range (not everyone has access to such a fancy set up). More detail on exactly what we are doing later.

I will be trying to update the blog regularly with going’s on of our team, but also follow along on twitter @orcaalab and #affogato. I’ll be more easily able to do quick updates there!

Off to Southwest Fisheries Science Center to unpack and test all our gear following shipment!!

#SeaBASS2016

As a graduate student in bioacoustics, my education is interdisciplinary. Bioacoustics is a relatively small field, and (together with my peers) I am challenged to find my way through coursework in ecology, physiology, physics, oceanography, statistics, and engineering to learn the background information that I need to develop and answer research questions. While this challenge (for all young bioacousticians) presents itself a little differently at every university, the information gap is essentially the same. Hence, just over 6 years ago, Dr. Jennifer Missis-Old and Dr. Susan Parks recognized a need to fill this gap for graduate students in bioacoustics and created SeaBASS, a BioAcoustics Summer School.

This year, for the 4th iteration of the week-long program, I was lucky to have the opportunity to attend SeaBASS. I first heard about SeaBASS as a research assistant in Dr. Sofie Van Parijs’s passive acoustics group at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, but the workshop is limited to graduate students only so I had to wait until I was officially enrolled in grad school to apply. My ORCAA lab-mates, Niki, Selene, and Michelle are all alumni of SeaBASS (read Miche’s re-cap from 2014 here) so by the time I was preparing for my trip to upstate NY this summer to attend, I had a pretty good idea of what was to come.

As expected, the week was packed. I flew to the East Coast a few days early to visit our fearless ORCAA leader, Holger, at the Bioacoustics Research Program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, so I was lucky to be somewhat adjusted to EST by the time I arrived at Syracuse on Sunday afternoon. After exploring the campus, it was time for official SeaBASS programming to begin. Our first class, an “Introduction to Acoustics and Proportion”, began early on Monday morning. In the afternoon and through the rest of the week we also learned about active acoustics (creating a sound in the water and using the echo to detect animals or other things) and marine mammal physiology, echolocation, communication, and behavior. We also heard about passive acoustics (listening to existing underwater sounds), including the different types of technology being used and its application for population density estimation. On Friday afternoon, the final lecture covered the effects of noise on marine mammals.

Some SeaBASS-ers testing the hypothesis that humans are capable of echolocation.

In addition to the class lectures given by each instructor, we also heard individual opinions about “hot topics” in bioacoustics. This session was my favorite part of the week because we (the students) had the opportunity to hear from a number of accomplished scientists about what they believe are the most pressing issues in the field. Unlike a conference or seminar, these short talks introduced (or reinforced) ideas from researchers in an informal setting, and among our small group it was easy to hear impressions from other SeaBASS-ers afterward. As a student I spend a lot of my time working alone, my ORCAA labmates are focused on related projects, but we do not overlap completely. The best part of SeaBASS was sharing ideas, experiences, and general camaraderie with other students that are tackling questions very similar to my own.

SeaBASS 2016

Although a full week of class would be plenty to take in by itself, our evenings were also filled with activities. We (students) shared posters (this was mine) about our individual research projects, listened to advice about life as a researcher in the field, attended a Syracuse Chiefs baseball game, and at the end of each day reflected on our new knowledge and experiences over pints. So, needless to say, I returned home to Oregon completely exhausted, but also with refreshed excitement about my place in the small world of bioacoustics research.

Luckily we had beautiful weather for the baseball game!

How low can you go?

Most of my time with bioacoustics, thus far, has been with playing sounds – my master’s work with an active acoustic tag – or with identifying odontocete, or toothed whale species, in glider data (typically known as high- or mid-frequency vocalizations).

For my PhD, I’ll be expanding what I know about whale acoustics and looking at baleen whales from glider and float data as well. I started into this the last few weeks and it has been fun, but definitely feels like a step back in time trying to look up literature and see what exactly I am hearing in the data – I’m not used to working with low-frequency sounds.

Low-frequency sounds

What do I mean with low- vs high-frequency sounds? These labels are based on human hearing (of course). Humans (babies!) can typically hear from 20 Hz (hertz) to 20 kHz (kilohertz…hertz*1000; 20 kHz = 20,000 Hz). As we get older we start to lose hearing on the higher end. But marine mammals vocalize both below and above our hearing range. The low/high delineation is “generally” accepted at 1 kHz, and typically baleen whales vocalize below this, and toothed whales vocalized above this. But remember, this is just USUALLY. There are always special cases that don’t follow the trend, and its all relative terms when calling things low and high.

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This figure from Mellinger et al. 2007 is a great way of see where certain species typically vocalize. (Click he figure to link to the PDF of the paper and zoom in)

Looking at sounds

So since some whales make sounds below my hearing range, and some make sounds above, how do I hear them for analysis? Well first of usually I am identifying sounds by looking at them, at a spectrogram (we’ve posted those before right?).

Then sometimes I need to listen AND look to identify what the sound is, or gather more info about it. Wonderfully there is a work around. For really LOW sounds, you can play  them faster, and then that increases the perceived frequency, so you can hear it. Vice versa, for really HIGH sounds, you can play them at half speed, which changes the perceived frequency, and then you can hear them. Does anyone remember Yakbaks? Speeding up your voice makes you sound like a chipmunk, slowing it down makes you sound like…a whale?

 

If you are interested in hearing some baleen whale sounds, sped up so you can hear them, look here: http://cetus.ucsd.edu/voicesinthesea_org/species/baleenWhales/blue.html

You’ll see that on the spectrogram it says *recording plays at 6 times normal speed for better listening.

But this one (http://cetus.ucsd.edu/voicesinthesea_org/species/beakedWhales/cuviersBeaked.html) is played at 1/10th the speed so you can hear it!

How high can you hear? I lose the signal at about 17 kHz 🙁

Find your park

The marine forecast is calling for 25-knot winds and 5-foot seas in Glacier Bay National Park today. Yesterday, when we were tightening the last nylocks on our hydrophone landers, and working out the last details of our array deployment, folks were pretty keen to remind us that the weather was going to kick up. I decided not to be nervous, what’s the point.

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Clockwise from upper right: Snacks, Kenya, Bumblebee, and Bruiser.  The hydrophones that listen where we cannot.

Today in the rain and the fog we put four instruments, that our team has literally pour blood sweat and tears into, into the ocean for a second year. Aside from one overactive buoy on the final drop (I turned to Chris and said, “My only concern is about that buoy.” I should have listened to my gut sooner), our day went smoothly and quickly – despite the persistent drizzle and fog dancing on deck. Our efficient little team completed the deployment by 10:45am. Plenty of time for a quick visit to Strawberry Island, and a boat ride home, all before the weather hit. Unlike last year, where we hooted and hollered our victory, this year the boat ride back was subdued. I didn’t dance a victory dance, I sighed a blissful sigh of relief.

Want to know something though? The best part of today wasn’t getting the hydrophones in the water (though long term, I’m certain that’s what I’ll be most grateful for), the best part was seeing the harbor porpoise sipping air off the port side of our deployment vessel, watching the bull sea lion growl with his huge mouth agape, and spotting the seals and birds diving after the same schools of small fish. I love our hydrophones – don’t get me wrong. I’ve slept with them next to my bed at night, kissed their housings, and whispered sweet nothings to them. I love them most, however, because they give me the motivation, the inspiration, and the permission to be outside here in Glacier Bay.

The National Park Service is having its centennial anniversary this year. It has been one hundred years since the intrinsic value of our wild places was recognized, and protected for no other reason than to ensure its persistence. Being a part of this legacy is something that I can’t quite put words too. Joining the ranks of my mentors, past and present, and contributing to what we know about and how we interact with the natural world with forever be one of my greatest achievements. I’m fortunate enough to stand in the footsteps of giants; for me, however, those footsteps were carved out by the journey of glaciers moving through this landscape well before I was born. Footsteps that have become the ocean home to the animals that I love, and the backdrop to the science that I create.

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Staged and almost ready to go on the dock in Bartlett Cove. Our equipment prep was completed in the company of otters, eagle, and Bonaparte gulls happily cackling

Technology enables me to listen to a world I otherwise cannot hear, but it is the sound of the ocean butting up against the islands that brought me to acoustics in the first place. We human tool users are ingenious in finding ways to solve problems and answer questions. Places like Glacier Bay, however, are essential for inspiring the questions in the first place.

One hundred years. That’s not a trivial tenure. How many times over the past 100 years have you visited a National Park? If you’ve never been, let this be the year that you find your park. I’ve certainly found mine.

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The view from Strawberry Island, overlooking our hydrophone array: Glacier Bay National Park

 

 

 

 

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