Research Publication

Near real-time detection of low-frequency baleen whale calls from an autonomous surface vehicle: Implementation, evaluation, and remaining challenges

By Mark F. Baumgartner, Keenan Ball, Jim Partan, Léo-Paul Pelletier, Julianne Bonnell, Cara Hotchkin, Peter J. Corkeron, Sofie M. Van Parijs

Originally published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America in May 2021



Mitigation of threats posed to marine mammals by human activities can be greatly improved with a better understanding of animal occurrence in real time. Recent advancements have enabled low-power passive acoustic systems to be integrated into long-endurance autonomous platforms for persistent near real-time monitoring of marine mammals via the sounds they produce. Here, the integration of a passive acoustic instrument capable of real-time detection and classification of low-frequency (LF) tonal sounds with a Liquid Robotics wave glider is reported. The goal of the integration was to enable monitoring of LF calls produced by baleen whales over periods of several months. Mechanical noises produced by the platform were significantly reduced by lubricating moving parts with polytetrafluoroethylene, incorporating rubber and springs to decelerate moving parts and shock mounting hydrophones. Flow noise was reduced with the development of a 21-element hydrophone array. Surface noise produced by breaking waves was not mitigated despite experimentation with baffles. Compared to a well-characterized moored passive acoustic monitoring buoy, the system greatly underestimated the occurrence of sei, fin, and North Atlantic right whales during a 37-d deployment, and therefore is not suitable in its current configuration for use in scientific or management applications for these species at this time.

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