Delphinid vocalization behaviors in relation to the presence of sonar (Jacksonville, FL and Onslow Bay, NC)

Goal: To develop and apply bio-statistical methods for assessing the effects of sonar on marine mammal acoustic behaviors.

Time Period: 2009-2013

Our Role: To process recordings of delphinid vocalizations (whistles) and sonar to extract variables that will be used by our project partners from St. Andrews University. St. Andrews researchers will work to develop a statistical framework to assess sonar effects on delphinid vocal behavior.

In the fall and winter of 2009-2010, the United States Navy’s NAVFAC-Atlantic deployed an array of nine Marine Autonomous Recording Units (MARUs) off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida. MARUs are seafloor mounted acoustic recording devices which are used for medium- to long-term acoustic monitoring. The nine MARUs were not time synchronized, but independently recorded acoustic data for approximately one month in the fall (Sept-Oct) of 2009. They were recovered, the data downloaded, and then re-deployed for another month in the same area in the winter (Dec-Jan) of 2009-2010. The deployment site coincides with the Navy’s planned Undersea Warfare Training Range (USWTR) located approximately 60-150 km offshore of Jacksonville. The U.S. Navy also deployed an array of five MARUs off Onslow Bay, North Carolina for one month starting in July 2008. Scientists from Bio-Waves, Inc. are processing data from these recorders to characterize patterns of marine mammal vocalizations and Navy sonar events, and extract whistle and sonar measurement variables. These data will be passed on to our collaborator, Dr. Len Thomas at St. Andrews University in Scotland, who will develop methods to statistically analyze and quantify the relationships, if any, between sonar and delphinid vocal behaviors. This is part of a larger effort in collaboration with Cornell University’s Bioacoustics Research Program in Ithaca, New York to develop statistical methods to assess sonar effects on vocal behavior for a variety of marine mammal species.

Collaborators/Partners: Cornell University, University of St. Andrews

Sponsor: United States Navy, NAVFAC-Atlantic

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