The modern world is hungry for energy. While demands continue to rise, a move toward less reliance on fossil fuels in the direction of sustainable and renewable energy resources will have a lasting effect on world populations. Diversity in energy resource development, particularly in the renewable sector, has the potential to spread financial and environmental risks and impacts across a broad range of the largest consumer nations. With that said, it will take a variety of different renewable energy technologies to help accommodate increasing world energy demands. Solar, hydroelectric, and wind driven turbine technologies have a substantial head start on marine hydrokinetic energy conversion devices.

George DeSoto surfing an outside reef off Lincoln City, Oregon ©Tyler_Roemer

Shift back to the Oregon coast…

Energy resource models have shown the Oregon coast to be one of the potentially richest wave energy resource areas for the continental U.S. Those of us living here or who spend time near or on the ocean can strongly attest to that. It is rarely calm. In light of a nascent wave energy conversion (WEC) device industry, the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) was established with support from the U.S. Department of Energy to provide standardized WEC testing facilities offshore of Newport, Oregon. There are something like ~130 different types of WEC devices out there, while tidal turbines have converged to around 20-30 different devices benefitting from wind turbine testing and technologies. Different WEC’s are bound to perform better in different types of conditions and water depths, but without live testing of scaled devices too many questions are left unanswered at a great financial and potentially environmental cost.


WET-NZ wave energy device test at NNMRECs North Energy Test Site.
WET-NZ wave energy device test at NNMRECs North Energy Test Site.

This is where we come in. Since 2009 our group has partnered with NNMREC to provide passive acoustic monitoring and support of the testing facilities off Newport. Since WEC construction and operation may potentially generate mechanical noise, we are measuring changes in ambient noise levels before, during and after NNMREC project activities. The concern being that increased noise levels may have adverse effects on acoustically sensitive transient and/or resident marine mammals and fish in the area. Another objective of this work is to provide the developers with an acoustic signature of their device which can then be used for model input to forecast acoustic conditions surrounding the commercial scale build out of an array of their device. We are still in the phase of acoustic site characterization, the “before”, collecting passive acoustic recordings at the testing facilities.


Lifting the mooring anchor off the deck to deploy the acoustic mooring at SETS
Lifting the mooring anchor off the deck to deploy the acoustic mooring at SETS

Last week we deployed an acoustic mooring at the South Energy Test Site (SETS) that is scheduled for recovery in October. The hydrophone will collect data on a duty cycle, recording 10 minutes of every hour until recovery. As a NNMREC partner we hope to provide valuable information that can assist in the permitting and licensure process as well as move the wave energy conversion industry forward toward a commercially viable marine renewable energy resource.

Ross Meyer, Intern
Ross Meyer, Intern

This post comes to us from our Summer Intern, Ross Meyer:


My name is Ross Meyer and I am an intern conducting research with NOAA- PMEL/ OSU-CIMRS Acoustics Program in Newport, OR in conjunction with Oregon State University’s National Science Foundation REU (Research Experience for Undergrads) program at Hatfield Marine Science Center. The focus of this program is to immerse students into a very educational and rewarding summer research project while also giving them access to many professional scientists to mentor them along the way. For this 10-week internship, I will be working with Joe Haxel, Bob Dziak and Anna Semple. I will be processing data collected from an NSF sponsored array of autonomous hydrophones for submarine earthquake epicenters along the Romanche Fracture Zone in the equatorial Atlantic as part of an earthquake foreshock study. Following processing and analysis of the Romanche FZ earthquake epicenters, I will compare my results to a similar study conducted on East Pacific Rise transform faults to determine if the earthquake predictability is consistent between both fracture zones.
I grew up in the small town of Sweet, ID but now live in Moscow, ID where I am working on my BS in Geology at the University of Idaho. When I’m not working or studying, I enjoy spending time outdoors with my family and friends. I am an avid hunter and fisherman, and also love to ride my motorcycle and explore new places.

Michelle Fournet / Graduate Research Assistant
Michelle Fournet

This post comes to us from Michelle Fournet, Graduate Research Assistant:

Friends, Loved Ones, and Acoustic Aficionados of all Walks of Life,

It’s almost time to go. If you’ve been following the slurry of photographs over the past two weeks you’ve now seen evidence that four autonomous underwater hydrophone packages were successfully deployed to the bottom of the ocean in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. These hydrophones are similar in many ways to the packages that I recovered in the Ross Sea. This project, however, has a few major differences; first the OBS that I was sent to recover in Antarctica was many hundreds (thousands) of feet below the surface of the ocean. The four hydrophones we deployed last week sit in a ‘shallow’ 240 ft (71 m). While we will recover these instruments with the use of acoustic releases (see my earlier post on singing to the ocean floor in this blog), in the event of some sort of catastrophic instrument failure (there was a fairly large earthquake in the region last year), our hydrophones are shallow enough to grapple for our instruments, or to send an ROV for assistance.

Samara and I preparing acoustic releases.  The releases (for the record) are named Kate, Kate II, Kate III, and Kate Jr. We discovered quite by accident that all acoustic releases are female.
Samara and I preparing acoustic releases. The releases (for the record) are named Kate, Kate II, Kate III, and Kate Jr. We discovered quite by accident that all acoustic releases are female.

Also, there are four of them. Four hydrophones are needed to acoustically triangulate sound, and thus localize vocalizing animals underwater. Pair this with a summer’s worth of shore based visual observations (with a digiscoping photo ID component) and we’re getting closer to telling the story of how these animals are truly using sound, and what their acoustic habitat looks like on a daily basis. While my trip to Antarctica was filled with rich observations of wildlife, my role was not that of a behavioral ecologist, but as a technician. With the Acoustic Spyglass Project I am back in my element, listening and watching.

I was lucky enough to be joined by two friends and colleagues for the deployment trip, my labmate Samara Haver and Syracuse University’s Leanna Matthews. Leanna is the PhD student investigating the harbor seal side of things in Glacier Bay, Samara is a plain old good time, and also has experience deploying AUH’s. The three of us made an excellent team that was completed with the addition of National Park Service whale biologist Chris Gabriele. Admittedly, I didn’t realize until midway through the trip that we had an all female research team. It wasn’t until after the deployment — where Chris ran our support vessel (and acted as a human GPS), where I deferred to Samara as deck boss, Leanna as expert record keeper and lifter of heavy things, and I may have single handedly lowered each 600 pound hydrophone to the ocean floor (ok, the cleats and the 500 foot of line helped too) — it wasn’t until after all of that when we invited the captain and deckhand to be part of our long term deployment team, that I realized what a powerful group of ladies in science we were. It was very satisfying, both to be that demographic and to have been confident and comfortable enough with our team to have not noticed.

It was a spectacular trip. I encourage you to scroll through my instagram feed to see a few of the photos that might not have made it onto the blog. Or look right to see what real women in science look like.

Before I sign off, there are a few things I want to say. I leave for Alaska June 10th! I will be a little hard to contact after that. I will be updating this blog over the course of the summer as frequently as possible- but posts will be few and far between. Our little home away from home on Strawberry Island has neither cell service nor internet (though we’ve managed to secure some electricity!). Every two weeks we leave the island to resupply, shower (much needed), and do our laundry (critical). In between grocery stores and bubble baths I’ll try and make my way to the Gustavus public library to get a few things posted. I’ll also be sure to direct photos to the blog as well so that even if I’m not able to narrate you through our adventures that at least you can glimpse what we’re up to.

My goal is also to have my students tell their side of the story, using this site as a platform. My perspective is by nature limited to my viewpoints. I moved to Alaska in April 2007, and my relationship with this land will clearly be different from those of my students, who have neither been here nor seen humpback whales. My imagination is vast, but I don’t think I could even begin to describe what their experiences will be like (cold, wet, buggy, unbelievably beautiful, overwhelmingly quiet). I’m hoping they’ll have the courage to tell you themselves.

So stay tuned, please spread the word to your friends and families about the Acoustic Spyglass Project, and share the blog widely. In return I promise tender stories, embarrassing moments, time lapse photography, and meaningful science — all the while peppered with those most graceful of animals that we are so fond of and whom I hope never notice that I’m watching them.

More to come.


Deploying hydrophones is hard work. Photo Credit: Leanna Mattews (sadly not pictured... since she took all the pictures).
Deploying hydrophones is hard work. Photo Credit: Leanna Mattews (sadly not pictured… since she took all the pictures).
Dr. Dziak
Dr. Dziak

This post comes to us from Dr. Bob Dziak, Acoustics Program Manager:

As many of you are probably aware, since Sunday night there has been a sequence of strong earthquakes (magnitudes 4.3-5.9) occurring on the seafloor ~250 miles west of Newport.

The earthquakes are occurring along the western Blanco Fracture Zone, a 200 mile long strike-slip fault located in water a mile deep. The Blanco forms one of the southern boundaries between the small Juan de Fuca plate and the much larger Pacific Plate.

The 2015 quakes are the large magenta circles (map created by Susan Merle).
The 2015 earthquakes are the large magenta circles (map created by Susan Merle)

Clusters of earthquakes of this magnitude occur on the Blanco Fracture Zone roughly every 3-5 years.    A tsunami warning was not issued because these earthquakes were too small and the wrong sense of crustal motion to generate a sizable tsunami. There were a few reports of weak ground motion from the earthquakes being felt on the coast, but no damage was reported. Also, as of today, it looks like the earthquake activity is on the decline.

Even though these earthquakes are not a hazard, we thought it was a good opportunity to remind the community to review their evacuation plans and make sure your emergency supply kit is ready and up to date.

Please check out these news links for more information:

USA Today

Statesman Journal

Oregon Live


Selene Fregosi
Selene Fregosi

This post comes to us from Selene Fregosi, Graduate Research Assistant:


I feel like I experienced a miracle last week.

Possibly I am throwing around the word “miracle” because I’ve got Herb Brooks on my mind (thanks to my fellow grad student and FW intermural soccer coach Matt who is obsessed with that guy). Or perhaps that is actually what happened.

Let me set the stage. Will and Otis, our two Seagliders, were deployed off the coast of Newport, for what should have been a brief, straightforward test of their passive acoustic systems before they were shipped off to the Gulf of Mexico for a project there. Of course, that would not be as exciting of a story if it all went as planned.

I can’t remember how much I’ve talked about it before (I looked it up…try here and here), but basically, the way these gliders work is they go out and dive in the ocean, listen for marine mammals, and every time they surface they call in to a basestation, offload their location and some log files, and continue on their way. Well. Otis (SG608) did exactly that. It was his first flight with us and all went smoothly, from a piloting stand point. Will (SG607) on the other hand….well, he went rogue. And I don’t mean to the brewery.

Will stopped calling in after only 5 dives. Did I tell you this was my first “solo” piloting of the gliders? Yes, I was sort of freaking out.

But what happened the next few days is not important (I blacked it out so I can’t tell you because I don’t remember).

The point is….WE FOUND HIM!!!!!!!!!!

So (1) the miracle part: Let me explain the chances of finding Will. Best case scenario we were searching in about a 1 km radius of a point we THOUGHT the glider would be diving to. Worst case, it was floating at the surface and had drifted who-knows how many miles offshore. But lets complicate things. Glider at the surface, great, easier to spot. Glider continuously diving = glider down for 1 hour 40 mins, at the surface for 20 mins. So lets say we ARE in the right place. Well then it has to be the right time, and you better spot the thing during that 20 mins and get the boat over there before it goes back down for an hour and 40 mins and pops up somewhere else in that 1 km radius. Lets add in some wind waves (We are 35 nm offshore here) and some fog. And this is the image you are looking for:

(2) the waiting part. Will was missing for 4 and a half days. That doesn’t seem like that long. But when everytime your phone beeps that you get a text message and your heart jumps thinking maybe its the glider, that is a long 108 hours. But that is a lot of what we had to do. This was exacerbated for me because I had to stay on land during the search trips. I had to be at my computer in case we heard from the glider and I could give updates on GPS locations or timing. This was a new experience for me. I’m not real good at sitting still and waiting.

(3) the teamwork part. To me, the greatest outcome of the whole thing. There is NO way we could have found Will without all hands on deck, without awesome grad students and scientists who went out to look (Laurie, Niki, Erin, Theresa, Curtis, Alex, Haru, Matt, Dave), Anatoli and Steve for answering my piloting questions, a chartered fishing boat (ok…we paid them, Sara thanks for coordinating), TWO trips out, the people at iridium for putting up with my incessant phone calls, the dolphins that swam by the boat and provided moral support, Sharon and Holger for telling me not to freak out…I could go on. (and I’m SO SORRY if I am forgetting someone)