A red grouper pauses on the seabed of Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida, surrounded by gorgonian soft coral, sponges, and algae. (Photo by Rosenstiel School Associate Scientist Jiangang Luo.)
Researchers use high-tech acoustics to make marine-protected areas better
Rosenstiel School fisheries researchers will embark on state-of-the-art research at the end of February to track black and red grouper in the Dry Tortugas National Park to develop a better understanding of species’ movement and habitat require-ments, so they can help more efficiently design and assess future marine-protected areas. Through funding from the National Park Service and transportation support from Yankee Fleet Ferry Service, scientists will be able to conduct this high-tech observation that involves surgically implanted transmitters for approximately a year.
The scientists have designed a field study that uses acoustic telemetry technology to track continuously the movements and habitat use of red and black grouper in the Dry Tortugas National Park, the 46-square-nautical-mile marine reserve. The groupers will be fitted with transmitters or “pingers” that emit unique acoustic codes underwater approximately every 20 seconds. Passive listening stations or receivers will be placed in a submersed array that can detect the transmitters. Receivers will record an acoustic tag’s presence when it is within range, usually 250-1,000 meters, depending on the oceanographic conditions. And, because the tags each emit unique identification numbers and time stamps, individual receivers could potentially detect up to 4,000 different fish at any given time.
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