| "Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That's the problem."
Collaborative Research Projects with Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
The coastal waters off the Northeast coast of the U.S. are extensively used by people in a variety of ways, including cargo ships traveling to the port of Boston (Massachusetts), New York and Portland (Maine), whale-watching, recreational boating, recreational and commercial fishing, and a number of other commercial activities. The increasing amount of noise from anthropogenic sources is a rising concern due to its potential to negatively impact marine ecosystems and organisms in several ways. Many anthropogenic activities generate high levels of underwater noise, which can interfere with the ability of animals to communicate with one another. This phenomenon is known as "communication masking," and is particularly a concern in urbanized coastal environments, like the coastal waters off the Northeast coast of the U.S.
Since 2006, the NEFSC passive acoustic research program has worked closely with scientists at the National Ocean Service's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS). The objectives of our collaborative work are to map ocean noise throughout the SBNMS ecosystem, identify both the anthropogenic and biological sources of noise, and evaluate the impacts of human-produced underwater sound on marine mammals and fish that use the sanctuary. This approach has and will continue to produce a new set of acoustic tools designed to be transferable to other ecological regions.
As one project example, two SoundTraps have been deployed in the sanctuary that passively record ambient sound over a complete lunar phase during each of the four seasons of the year. The information gathered will be used to classify the acoustic signatures of the sites, including relative contributions from human-produced noise sources as well as marine wildlife (invertebrates, fish and mammals) and geophysical sources (wind, waves). These recordings will help us to better understand what types of sound (such as ships and whales) are present, and how they vary in space and time.
The two SoundTraps that were deployed at Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary are part of a network of hydrophones that have also been deployed at three other national marine sanctuaries - Gray's Reef, Florida Keys and Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuaries. The data gathered will allow us to monitor and compare acoustic profiles in the relatively shallow waters of these four sanctuaries. Learn more about the issue of noise in National Marine Sanctuaries. Learn more about the issue of noise in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.