Although I won’t be formally joining the lab until January, my informal transition has already begun. Luckily for me, my tenure at as graduate student started off with a fieldwork cruise! In September I joined the crew of the Bell M. Shimada to assist with the deployment of one of ORCAAlab’s Ocean Noise Reference Station (NRS) moorings. The focus of my graduate research will be to analyze recordings from the NRS project, so it was exciting to have the opportunity to help out with a deployment.
The Ocean Noise Reference Stations will be deployed in NOAA Marine Sanctuaries and some other US marine areas of interest. We hope that the recordings from these moorings will allow us to compare ocean soundscapes and monitor long-term changes in a new way. Currently, many different types of autonomous recording units (ARU) exist and are used by passive acoustics research groups. While this is excellent for documenting ocean noise in isolated areas, different recording technology and mooring design make it difficult to compare soundscapes. The NRS project recorders are all calibrated to the exact same specifications so we may accurately compare ambient ocean noise around the US and in NOAA sanctuary waters.
On this trip we were to deploy NRS station 3, off the coast of Washington State. We set sail out of Newport on a wet and windy day. This was my first journey in the Pacific ocean, and the weather certainly lived up to my expectations! Avoiding the offshore storms, we started our trip by traveling north along the coast of Oregon. Cheif scientist Jay Peterson recruited a science crew of faculty, students, and volunteers and we were all assigned watches and jobs for our week on the Shimada. Between all of us we would process water samples (via CTD), jig for squid, dip-net for jellyfish, retrieve a NOAA DART (Deep-ocean Assesment and Reporting of Tsunamis) monitoring buoy, and deploy a Noise Reference Station. Suffice to say, we had a busy week at sea!
I was also able to help out with some of the other projects. Here I am helping to catch jellyfish for Samantha Zeman’s project.
It was great to have the opportunity to visit Newport before starting at OSU this winter, and I hope I get a chance to help with another deployment soon!
Soundbites is a weekly (biweekly, occasionally) feature of the coolest, newest bioacoustics, soundscape, and acoustic research, in bite-size form. Plus other cool stuff having to do with sound. I’ve been doing really well on this weekly thing, but I might break my streak next week as I’ll be in Indianapolis for ASA(!). That just means you’ll get a real blog post from me next week!
Aposematism led to increased vocal diversity in poison frogs: tip o’ the finder hat to my Garcia labmate Lindsey for this one, and it’s brilliant. You know those little brightly colored poisonous frogs? These authors wanted to know if aposematism (displaying bright colors like that as a warning to predators) might lead to increased vocal diversity, since they’d have to worry less about predation. And it did! In conjunction with sexual selection, aposematism allowed the evolution of a broader vocal repertoire!
Silvereyes shift their frequency down in urban noise–and it works: These are silvereyes. They’re really cute. You can find them in Australia and New Zealand (which is where I took this photo). Most animals shift their frequencies up above urban noise, but it turns out silvereyes shift theirs down. This increased the predicted effective space of their alarm call 20%!
Oscar Wilde said that “Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”
Sorry Oscar, despite my deep respect and admiration to you I will have to object this one.
Talking about the weather is lame; I seriously thought before. But I have changed my mind, since I moved to the Oregon Coast. Talking about the weather is lame at the cases that the weather is consistent, predictable and largely warm and sunny. This is not the case at the Pacific Northwest.
I often find myself complaining about the weather (this is my version of talking about it) since I moved here, and now it’s time to better look into it. Without my usual pout when I curse the rain, or my frown when it’s sunny but really windy. I am not grumpy in reality; I am just a bicycle commuter. That means that I don’t have the choice of a well heated, or at least a dry seat at bike-unfriendly times. I am always exposed to the weather and it affects me every single day. I have been repeatedly soaked by the North Pacific rain and blown away by the Northerly winds (we name the winds from the direction that they come from) over and over again. Immediately when I arrived here I was warned about the horizontal rain that I had never heard of before and no umbrella could keep it off me. The wind is ruthless at the North Pacific.
The truth is that everyone is affected by the weather and has his/her own relationship with it depending on where they come from, what they are used too and how their internal thermostat is tuned, and also on their personality. If you come from Greece, the Oregon Coast will appear cold, whereas if you come from northern France (clear reference to one of my housemates) it will feel like home. If you are outgoing and social the warm sunny weather suits you and defines you. If you are more of an introvert the rain and the low temperatures will provide the right conditions for you to stay home and enjoy solitude.
Research shows that the weather and particularly the sun affect our mood. I clearly see more smiley faces in a sunny day, mine included. Studies indicate a link between low pressure and suicide. On rainy days people report lower satisfaction with their lives. Now imagine how challenging it can be to be a graduate student in a tiny town on the Oregon Coast…!
Overall, I think that the amount of energy that we receive from the huge flaming star on the sky defines who we are, and seems to be a driver of peoples cultures. I am certain that you also have noticed generic cultural differences among people that come from southern and northern regions in a global or even in a national scale. I might be judged for stereotyping but there is some truth to that.
There are 3 major factors why the weather is important for biologists-acousticians:
1. It is linked to food and everyone cares about food
The animals care about the weather! Their distribution is defined by the climate together with other parameters. The sperm whales for example, being truly cosmopolitan, are encountered in the most parts of the world’s seas from the equator to the edge of the polar ice. However they have their temperature preferences. The females like it warm and don’t go to temperatures lower than 15°C. While the groups of females and young males are thought to remain in lower latitudes year round, the macho adult males have wider physiological demands and are encountered in polar areas.
The sperm whales display a remarkable sexual dimorphism with the males being ~1.5 times longer than the females. The larger the size of the animal the more favorable is the surface-to-volume ratio. Even though they have a large surface area that they lose heat from, this area is small in relation to their heat-producing body mass. Thus the males can migrate to high latitudes, especially during summer months, to productive feeding grounds where they karaoke with my hydrophone located at the Gulf of Alaska.
Within their calls I am sure that whales talk about the weather too because highly productive spots are identified, like upwelling areas and other cool places where plenty of food is available and the animals tend to aggregate. Though, the precise process that links the environmental factors in the open ocean with the distribution and abundance of large predators is difficult to be determined and is a major goal of my research. Investigating the oceanographic parameters that affect the movements of sperm whale populations is a particularly complicated matter since they feed on deep sea creatures (bathypelagic squid) and the linkages of physical forcing (wind, temperature) with primary productivity and aggregations of prey and predators are temporally and spatially variable.
2. The sound in the ocean likes it hot
The propagation of sound in the oceans is largely affected by oceanographic variables (which are related to the weather) such as temperature, pressure and salinity. The speed that the sound travels underwater varies from area to area, season to season and different time in the day. Generally the sound speed increases when all the above variables increase. Since these variables change with the depth, the sound speed profile also changes with depth in the water column.
High sound velocity on the sea surface where the water gets warmed up by the sunlight decreases down to the depth where the water temperature becomes constant (~1000m) and then it starts increasing again when the pressure increase is dominant. At the transition point where the sound velocity reaches a minimum (~1000m) it is formed a sound channel where sound waves get trapped and propagate really far away. This is named as the SOFAR (SOund Fixing And Ranging) Channel and some species of whales find it to be very useful to communicate with their friends, partners, parents, cousins and aunts that are immigrants to faraway seas.
I use skype.
Do remember this SOFAR chitchat when you decide to deploy your instrument to record whale voices and you cannot decide on the depth 😉
And to turn the talk-about-the-weather into a hot topic, consider what happens when climate change is introduced and the small talk becomes a conversation where personal ethics, political and social opinions are involved. More like loud talk now! Now that I said loud, did you wonder what is the effect of climate change to the sound propagation and consequently the whales’ communication, and you were afraid to ask?
Ocean acidification, the decrease of the pH in the seas, is a notorious climate change impact. This increase of the ocean acidity changes how sound travels underwater: the lower the pH (more acidic), the ocean absorbs less sound and the higher is the sound speed. And now you are thinking: “Voila, the whales can be heard even further now!”. However, the reality is less comforting (as usually). At the frequencies that the whales vocalize we make a whole lot of noise with shipping and naval activity, seismic exploration and other significant anthropogenic sound sources that interfere with the whales’ skype and consequent communication issues. Yep, ocean acidification makes the sound pollution in the seas into a magnified problem.
3. People love listening to the rain
Since the weather affects the ocean soundscape, then it can also be measured by the sound it makes! Rain and wind generate sound at the sea by producing bubbles during splashing at the ocean surface. These physical processes create different distribution of bubble sizes that have a different footprint on the soundscape. This way the sound from breaking waves (caused by the wind) can be distinguished from the rainfall sound and we are able to monitor the ocean surface conditions from below the surface. Huzzah, here is the solution to trying to measure wind speed and precipitation in difficult locations where the measured vicious weather elements can actually destroy the instruments that we use to measure them. The instrument that I use, the Passive Aquatic Listener (aka PAL) was originally designed by Dr. Jeffrey Nystuen to detect and measure rainfall and wind speed at sea. Lucky me, it works great with recording marine mammals too!
Weather and bubbles talk. This is so scientific.
By this point of this post I have been unnecessarily negative with the Oregon Coast weather which to be frank is what makes this corner of the world into a magical place. The northerly winds in the summer are the reason for the upwelling to take place and all the whales and other astounding marine life to move up this way for food. Seeing the whales from the beach or even just the balcony of your house is certainly worth suffering some cold winds. The world we live in is alive because of the winds. The wind is the breath and the heartbeat of the Earth. The rain on the other hand gives life to thriving and fairytale-like old-growth forests with splendidly diverse and abundant wildlife, fills the rivers and the lakes. Did I mention how outdoorsy I have become?
A question to you: do you also see an irony in the name “Pacific” or I am being grumpy again?
Here it comes, a welcome wind: the wind of change. I am moving to the valley!
Direct-developing frogs are more reliant on climate cues to start calling: what a week, we get one whale link and one frog link! There are some species of entirely terrestrial frogs that don’t go through a tadpole stage; instead, they hatch as mini adults. However, the eggs still need to be kept moist while they’re developing. These researchers found that the onset of calling was more closely tied to high humidity and rainfall than it was to overall air temperature, which is a different cue than most species of tadpole-metamorphosing frogs.
Fun link of the week: I’ve been practicing for my presentation at ASA in a couple of weeks, so I’ve been asking myself this question regularly: “does my voice really sound like that?” Here Greg Foot examines why our voices sound different on recordings.
Classes have started again here at OSU. I know this is old news for those east coast universities that start classes in late August or early September, but here in Ye Olde Oregon fall starts late… so school starts late. As a PhD student I’m no longer required to take classes at the university, and having just pushed the paperwork through on our National Park Service Grant I will soon be exclusively a GRA (graduate research assistant) and will no longer be required to teach courses either. For now, however, I am both student and teacher — taking classes and teaching them.
I love teaching. Rare for many researchers I know, but for me – true. I find it helps me to synthesize my thoughts, to approach science creatively and simply, and to consistently reference back to the basics. In my tenure as a graduate student at OSU I’ve been privileged to both TA and instruct classes in basic biology, ecology, intro to anatomy, physiology and the disease, marine biology, marine mammal science, marine habitats, and (my all time favorite) field sampling. FW255 — field sampling — is a required course for all of our Fisheries and Wildlife undergraduate students; I’ve been a GTA (graduate teaching assistant) under the brilliant and compassionate guidance of biological oceanographer and community ecologist Dr. Doug Reese for four quarters. The course gives students the opportunity (under the instructors’ guidance) to design and execute field studies at the Finley Wildlife Refuge. Courses range from comparing predator habitat use, to investigating the impacts of beaver dams on water clarity, to chronicling avian community structure. I know. Our students are impressive, creative, young minds.
For my part I see participating in this course as an opportunity to introduce undergraduate students to acoustic ecology. In my tenure I’ve guided students through studies that seek to aquatically detect amphibian species, investigate the impact of diel vs. nocturnal raptors on songbird communities, and studies that use acoustics (playbacks and recordings in this case) to test for territorial responses of red-winged blackbirds to encroaching yellow-headed blackbirds. Currently we’re starting up two playback studies; one study uses acoustic playbacks to investigate the impact of raptors on waterfowl, the other which will asses behavioral responses of elk to breeding calls (assuming we can find the elk — backup plan includes tracking elk and using trail cams. No student left behind here).
While there’s a lot to love about teaching this class (I spend two days a week hiking through a wildlife refuge looking for animals, I can pay my rent each month), there are a few things that really strike me as I start up my fourth quarter interacting with out students in the field. First, I have a lot to learn. Whenever I start to feel like I understand something in its entirety, be it about ecology or about bioacoustics, a student asks me a question I don’t know the answer to. I then go home, look it up, and learn something for the both of us. It is simultaneously refreshing, inspiring, and humbling. Good qualities for any PhD student to embody.
Second, teaching is valuable. While I believe that my research has, and will continue to have an impact of the world around me, when I teach I can see the impact. My students start the quarter not knowing how to do something (“What is a quadrat?”), perhaps lacking direction (a.k.a. don’t know how to operate a GPS), and are sometimes a little short in the inspiration department (“What study do you think I should do, Michelle?”), but when then leave? By the time my students hand in their final papers — a full scale research paper, intro, methods, results, & discussions, stats and all — I can see that they have changed (“We used a one square meter quadrat to investigate insect biodiversity between the upland forest and the agricultural lowland riparian zone”). Further, the relationships that I see unfolding in our class between the students and their groups, and the students and Doug and myself, are proof to me that doing science is a powerful tonic for a healthy life. Not everyone loves teaching, not everyone gets it, but for me (at least for now) it’s nourishing to put big picture impacts into real world perspective.
So yes, I am a teacher. Yes, I am a student. The teacher is a student & the students are the teachers.
But enough with philosophy (Niki’s really much better at that than I am). While 99% of the time I love teaching… no one can deny that this is also true. Cross your fingers and I may just graduate some day.
Soundbites is a weekly (biweekly, occasionally) feature of the coolest, newest bioacoustics, soundscape, and acoustic research, in bite-size form. Plus other cool stuff having to do with sound.
Proximity to wind turbines reduces brood parasitism: this is fascinating. These researchers looked at nest success in relation to proximity to wind turbines, and only found a difference for one species, the blue gnat-catcher. It turns out that nests closer to wind turbines had less of a chance of being parasitized by brown cowbirds. This presents an interesting dichotomy between managing for wind turbines and managing brood parasitism.
Invertebrates may also be impacted by anthropogenic noise: we at ORCAA work entirely on vertebrates, but these authors make an excellent point that invertebrate species have the ability to hear anthropogenic noise. As they are a huge part of food webs in all ecosystems, neglecting to study their response to noise is neglecting a huge part of the systems we study.
Fun link of the week: the loudest sound in recorded human history was heard 3000 miles away. 3000 miles. That is one loud volcano.
Last week I attended the 5th Biologging Science Symposium in Strasbourg, France (Yes, France!! All thanks to student travel awards from the OSU Mastin Travel Award, the Hatfield Student Organization, and the conference itself).
OSU had quite the showing. Almost all the PI’s from the Marine Mammal Institute were there, plus Dr. Rob Suryan from Hatfield’s Seabird Oceanography Lab, and Shea Steingass and I as student presenters. I presented a poster on my master’s research, and the poster sessions (all 4 of them!) were super productive. I was able to meet people from the Marine Mammal Commission who were interested in my work and suggested some research grants I could apply for to conduct future field work. I got feedback from my collaborator David (the raccoons in chimney guy) on my analysis and got to hang out at his exhibitor booth like a cool kid. And I got to talk with leading dive physiology researchers from Scripps Institute of Oceanograpy about how to use my tag to study specific physiological responses to extended deep dives. I think my favorite part was meeting Dr. Gerald “Jerry” Kooyman, the inventor of time-depth recorders, and hearing him say he thought my research was awesome.
Biologging is all about putting tags on animals and studying their behavior, whether it’s large-scale migrations, fine scale flight, foraging kinematics, or vocal production and communication. There were countless interesting research presentations and I was able to make some great new connections, but all week something felt like it was missing. Acoustics!! This was my first major conference that was not all acoustics, all the time, and I have to say there were moments sitting in a talk I found myself wishing for more dB’s. Don’t get me wrong, I am so thankful I was able to attend and I learned a ton. But to satisfy the acoustician in me, I recorded all over Strasbourg and now I’ll share with you the sounds of France! Or, at least a small subset recorded by your’s truly.
Free beer to anyone who makes the sounds into spectrograms and leaves them in the comments!
Siren and street sounds from outside my apartment window:
Inside the conference center during an oral presentation:
The tram that got us all over town:
Some performers at the open-air market:
The hum of a coffee break at the conference:
The bell’s of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg:
Soundbites is a weekly (biweekly, occasionally) feature of the coolest, newest bioacoustics, soundscape, and acoustic research, in bite-size form. Plus other cool stuff having to do with sound. Well, Soundbiters (your new collective noun), term has officially started and the ORCAA students are off and running.
Automated frog call detection–it WORKS!Oh man guys, this is so cool. These researchers developed an automated system for frog identification by call, and it worked even on species they didn’t train the detector on! Talk about huge implications for more efficient monitoring in remote areas!
Cichlids aren’t impacted by boat noise playback: we talk a lot at ORCAA about the negative impacts of anthropogenic noise, so occasionally it’s refreshing to see a species that isn’t impacted in our ever noisier world. Development of this species of cichlid fish was not impacted by playback of boat noise.
Fun link of the week: to be totally honest this has very little to do with sound except that an explosion is involved (just a small explosion, I promise). It’s the first day of October and that means PUMPKINS!! You can make a self-carving pumpkin with calcium carbide and hydrogen peroxide! I would totally try this this Halloween except I’m spending the week prior in Indianapolis for ASA.
Fall is here, the weather is cooling down, the leaves will soon start changing color, and the ORCAA students are back in class. I’ve spent the past few months collecting fieldwork data, doing extensive literature reviews, and taking over as the Hatfield Student Organization (HsO) social coordinator here in Newport.
However, my last week of summer before officially starting my graduate career was spent attending conferences and networking with others in my field. Last week I was lucky enough to sit on an impact panel for a joint Conference with Oregon Wave Energy Trust (OWET) and Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NMREC) with Barbara Lagerquist to represent Bruce Mate (Director of the Marine Mammal Institute here at Oregon State). Wave energy technology is new and evolving in its applicability, viability, and potential impacts. Very little information is available on environmental effects, and in some cases, no baseline information exists – which is where one of the main goals of my graduate research comes into play! The objective of this workshop was to identify studies that should be conducted to properly determine potential effects from power generating buoys on marine mammals of the Oregon coast, with emphasis on cetaceans, like my study species, the harbor porpoise. Special emphasis was put on the acoustic output from both the installation and operation of wave energy buoys (the two phases could be quite different acoustically), monitoring marine mammal behavior, detection of buoys by cetaceans, and the use of acoustic deterrence devices to prevent cetacean collisions and/or entanglements. Nonetheless, workshop participants included marine mammal biologists, marine acousticians, and representatives from the wave energy industry and regulatory agencies, so it was a great chance for me to Network! And if that wasn’t enough, Hatfield hosted Dr. Jens Koblitz last Thursday, who gave a presentation on Static Acoustic Monitoring of the Baltic Sea Harbor Propoise (SAMBAH), which is a multinational project with the primary goal of estimating the abundance and spatial-temporal distribution of the critically endangered Baltic Sea harbor porpoise. Check out the research here!
While spending a week with experts in my field was fun, it is now time to make the transition into the school year! Like most first year graduate students, I’m learning that organizing one’s free time is critical for first year students, and that probably won’t change throughout one’s graduate studies and after. I’m also learning the responsibilities of graduate school seem to be more task oriented then time oriented, and it seems that the designated task for me this quarter is learning programing! However, I am not alone! Fellow ORCAA students, Danielle and Michelle, will be joining me on the journey of learning Matlab. Without a doubt, if you’re at the beginning of your research career in the field of bioacoustics, learning Matlab is certainly one of the most useful things you could possibly learn. But as a first year, first term graduate student, Matlab will be joined with its programing friends R (a statistical computing program) and GIS (a computer system designed to create spatial or geographic data) on my course schedule. Check back next month to get an update on my sanity! 🙂
While, I’ve had a busy transition from conference season to classes starting up, my alma mater, Purdue University, has been celebrating Homecoming Week, which I was unfortunately able to attend. However, the university decided to send me a message just to let me know it was still thinking of me. As I was commuting to class this morning, I was listening to NPR, and heard that a “soundscape ecologist” has installed microphones around the world so he can capture the planet’s noises. Brian Pijanowski a “soundscape ecologist” at Purdue University, studies how environmental sounds interact, and he believes listening to the world can clue us in to the changing state of the natural world. Pijanowski has spent years traveling the globe and installing microphones everywhere from the rain forests of Borneo and Costa Rica to the Sonoran Desert and the streets of Chicago. His travels are part of an ambitious project in which he will record every sound the planet makes. Soon, sensors in Indiana will go online, and his collection of microphones will record oceans, birdsongs, insects, animals, traffic and every other sound on Earth for a full year. ISNT BIOACOUSTICS WAY COOL?!? You guys can read the full story Here. I couldn’t find yesterday’s podcast, perhaps it isn’t uploaded yet (?), Ill keep an eye out, but here is the first NPR podcast on the research from a few years ago. Finally, the researchers have created a 5-minute time-lapse audio and visual video of a full day’s soundscape where I did my undergraduate fieldwork at the Purdue Wildlife Area in Tippecanoe County, Indiana. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PB65l9c8NM
Well ORCAA readers that’s all for now, if anyone needs me Ill be hanging with my best friends, R, GIS, and Matlab. Until next time! Cheers!