Marine Autonomous Acoustic Recorders (MicroMARS)

MicroMARS is a low-cost, miniature Marine Autonomous Recorder System (MARS). This technology development effort was funded through NOAA’s Advanced Technologies Working Group via a grant to the Northwest Fisheries Science Center who then contracted Desert Star Systems and Bio-Waves. MicroMARS was designed to be a small, inexpensive option for autonomous recording of acoustic data from the marine environment. The design of this device allows low-power consumption in a very small package (about the size of a soda can). It can be configured to sample as high as 250 kHz and is duty-cycle programmable. It uses an array of up to 8 SD cards to provide up to 2 TB of storage. It is capable of recording continuously for periods of up to 35 days at 250 kHz, and 140 days at 25 kHz. Because of the extremely small size of the units, they can be easily deployed using a small vessel (e.g. an inflatable boat), from small airplanes, or from platforms of opportunities (e.g. fishing vessels). The small size also reduces the complexity and cost of mooring systems. Acoustic release devices can be used for deep-water deployments or areas were a surface buoy is not a possibility. Units can be daisy-chained and cycled through to increase total recording duration. These devices have used for underwater monitoring of marine animals, noise, soundscapes and other underwater applications requiring full-bandwidth acoustic data. The low cost relative to other autonomous recorders will allow greater spatial sampling especially in remote and extreme areas (e.g. polar environments and remote islands) where traditional sampling is difficult and costly. An upgrade to this system (SonarPoint) is currently underway and will allow real-time monitoring with limited bandwidth via the ARGOS system, integrated GPS, and time-synchronization of multiple units (e.g. an array) to allow localization and tracking of mobile sound sources such as marine mammals.