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Passive acoustic monitoring of belugas and harbour porpoises – new studies on the effects of anthropogenic noise

June 1st, 2010 - This season, we will be conducting passive acoustic monitoring of belugas and harbour porpoises in the St. Lawrence, in close collaboration with the German Oceanographic Museum in Stralsund and the University of Greifswald (Germany). The aim of the beluga study is to compare call rates of social vocalizations in three acoustically different habitats in low vs. high noise situations, to identify major anthropogenic noise sources, and to investigate if anthropogenic noise affects the vocal behaviour of belugas. As to the harbour porpoises, the idea is to identify areas of high harbour porpoise occurrence and to compare patterns of echolocation signals in situations of low vs. high anthropogenic noise levels.

Anne Herrmann, assistant at the Mériscope in 2009 and scientific assistant at the German Oceanographic Museum in Stralsund, will conduct these studies in the framework of her Master thesis at the University of Greifswald, together with the Mériscope staff. For data acquisition, we will be using two kinds of acoustic data loggers in at least three areas and at different times of the day.

For passive acoustic monitoring of beluga social vocalizations, a sonobuoy will be deployed for periods of 4 to 16 hours at a time, covering frequencies from 20 Hz to 48 kHz. For the harbour porpoise project, 4 so-called C-PODs ("Porpoise Detectors") will be deployed over extended periods of time. A C-POD is an autonomous recording unit that is calibrated to detect and record echolocation signals of harbour porpoises and belugas. Anne has already been working with these units in the Baltic Sea and has presented a poster about this project at the ECS conference 2009 in Istambul, Turkey.

The Mériscope is contributing logistic support, co-supervision, and a sonobuoy to facilitate this study, while the German Oceanographic Museum provides 4 calibrated C-PODs and technical support with the analysis of the data. The academic supervision of Anne's Master thesis is provided by the University of Greifswald.



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