A biologist in Syracuse University's College of Arts and Sciences has developed a system of techniques for tracking ships and monitoring underwater noise levels in a protected marine mammal habitat. The techniques are the subject of a groundbreaking article in Marine Pollution Bulletin, focusing on the bottlenose dolphin population in Scotland's Moray Firth.
Nathan Merchant, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Biology, co-authored the article with Enrico Pirotta, Tim Barton, and Paul Thompson, of The Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Aberdeen (U.K.).
"Underwater noise levels have been increasing over recent decades, due to escalations in human activity," says Merchant, referring to shipping, pile-driving, and seismic surveys. "These changes in the acoustic environment affect marine mammals because they rely on sound as their primary sensory mode. The disturbance caused by this man-made noise can disrupt crucial activities like hunting for food and communication, affecting the fitness of individual animals."
He adds: "Right now, the million-dollar question is: Does this disturbance lead to changes in population levels of marine mammals? That's what these long-term studies are ultimately trying to find out."
The study focuses on the Moray Firth, the country's largest inlet and home to a population of bottlenose dolphins and various types of seals, porpoises, and whales. This protected habitat also houses construction yards that feed Scotland's ever-expanding offshore wind sector. Projected increases in wind farm construction are expected to bring more shipping through the habitat—something scientists think could negatively impact on resident marine mammals.
"Different ships emit noise at different levels and frequencies, so it's important to know which types of vessels are crossing the habitats and migration routes of marine mammals," says Merchant, who is based in the research lab of Professor Susan Parks, a specialist in the ecology and evolution of acoustic signaling. "The cumulative effect of many noisy ship passages can raise the physiological stress-level of marine mammals and affect foraging behavior."
Due to a lack of reliable baseline data, Merchant and his collaborators at Aberdeen have figured out how to monitor underwater noise levels, using ship-tracking data and shore-based time-lapse photography. These techniques form a ship-noise assessment toolkit, which Merchant says may be used to study noise from shipping in other habitats.
Parks, for one, is excited about Merchant's accomplishments. "Nathan has been a great addition to our lab," she says. "His strengths in signal processing and noise measurements for ship noise have expanded our capabilities. … Underwater noise is a global problem, as major shipping routes connect all of the economies of the world."
Located in SU's Life Sciences Complex, the Department of Biology offers graduate and undergraduate programs in cell biology, development, neuroscience, ecology, evolution, pre-medical education, and environmental science.
Rob Enslin | EurekAlert!
Despite government claims, orangutan populations have not increased. Call for better monitoring
06.11.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Increasing frequency of ocean storms could alter kelp forest ecosystems
30.10.2018 | University of Virginia
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.
Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
16.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
16.11.2018 | Life Sciences
15.11.2018 | Earth Sciences