Brandon Southall Leads Ocean Acoustics Panel at Capital Hill Oceans Weeks

This week is Capital Hill Oceans Week in Washington D.C. Organized by the National Marine Sanctuaries Program, this event brings together ocean policy makers and scientists from around the U.S. to discuss cutting edge issues in marine science and conservation. (please see: https://www.marinesanctuary.org/chow/)

The session is entitled “Cacophony: The decline of silent seas” and it take place on Wednesday, June 14, 2017 from 9:30 am to 10:30 am at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center (1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC). The session will be led by SEA’s Dr Brandon Southall. Panelists include experts in marine noise reduction, commercial shipping operations, oil and gas exploration, and marine conservation. A summary of the session is given below. The

“Diving under the waves often elicits images of a quiet and serene place, but the sea is no longer silent. As use of technology for everything from shipping to energy exploration and production, to military activity increases, our use of the ocean brings with it noise that travels long distances and has lasting effects throughout the marine environment. Numerous marine animals from invertebrates to mammals rely on sound for survival. We are just beginning to understand the full range of how sound is used by these animals – finding prey, mating, avoiding predators, navigating, and communicating – and how anthropogenic noise impacts these functions. This session will explore the current information that exists on ocean noise and its mitigation, with a focus on the development and implementation of noise reduction technology within industry.”

The session will be live-streamed online at: http://marinesanctuary.org/oceanslive

Public Outreach on Marine Acoustics in Monterey Bay

Dr. Brandon Southall will appear with colleagues from MBARI and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary this Friday March 3rd at 5pm for a First Friday public event entitled:

“Sounds in the Sanctuary: An Opportunity to Listen Beneath the Waves”

Recordings of sounds from animals and people recorded on a new passive acoustics listening system in Monterey Bay will be displayed and explained with an interactive exhibit.


Dr. Brandon Southall serves on United Nations ocean acoustics panel

An international group of ocean scientists and leaders from a range of international research and environmental organizations, government agencies, and industry partners (pictured below) participated in a special session on ship noise and ship strike issues related to marine conservation at a recent preparatory meeting for the United Nations Oceans Conference. SEA’s Brandon Southall was among the invited panelists, which also included the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

A summary of the concept note developed for this meeting and a summary of the event is available at the Oceans Conference website:  https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/12977ConceptNote.pdf and https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/12971Summary.pdf

Edited video and all the various documents available (including our final WG summary is also available at:  https://sdg14.wcs.org/Events/Global-Shipping-and-Whale-Conservation

 

This event lead to the formation of a working group in preparation for the June UN Oceans Conference which has developed a set of voluntary commitments on the reduction of noise in the oceans, for which SEA is proud to be a participating member:

https://oceanconference.un.org/commitments/?id=18553

SEA Senior Scientist co-authors IUCN Best Practices Publication on Seismic Surveys

SEA Senior Scientist Dr. Brandon Southall and Dr. Doug Nowacek from Duke co-authored a new publication regarding responsible environmental practices for monitoring and mitigation of seismic airgun surveys. The document is entitled  “Effective planning strategies for managing environmental risk associated with geophysical and other imaging surveys.” It was launched at the World Conservation Congress last night in Honolulu. The PDF of the report is attached. It is also available on the IUCN’s Library Portal online: https://portals.iucn.org/library/node/46291

http://www.iucnworldconservationcongress.org

http://www.iucnworldconservationcongress.org/news/20160902/article/turn-down-volume-new-iucn-guide-helps-navigate-seismic-survey-impacts-marine

Brandon Southall to give DOSITS webinar – Wed 16 March

IMG_20140807_123006771

 

 

Members of the international regulatory community have an expressed need for training materials on underwater acoustics as well as instructional resources that can be quickly accessed and viewed. To meet this need, the Discovery of Sound in the Sea (DOSITS) Team is facilitating a free, five-part webinar series on topics related to underwater sound.

Two webinars took place in 2015.  The first reviewed science of sound concepts, the second, sound production and reception in marine animals.  These webinars, PDF versions of the webinar presentations, and other associated resources, have been archived to the DOSITS website (http://www.dosits.org/resources/all/decisionmakers/ircwebinar/).

The third webinar will take place on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, at 12:00 pm (U.S. East Coast time).  Dr.’s Dorian Houser and Brandon Southall will review the potential effects of underwater sound on marine mammals.

Interested individuals must register in advance for this webinar.  To register please visit:  http://www.dosits.org/resources/all/decisionmakers/ircwebinar/registration/

To learn more about this webinar series and view other, upcoming webinar dates and speakers, please visit the DOSITS webpage, Webinar Series for Regulators of Underwater Sound.

Questions?  Please contact Holly Morin at holly_morin@uri.edu.

 

New publication on Heterogenous Prey Distribution and Beaked Whales

REMUS AUV

Along with my co-authors Kelly Benoit-Bird and Mark Moline, I would like to bring to your attention a paper recently published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B (Biological Sciences) entitled Predator-guided sampling reveals biotic structure in the bathypelagic. The full reference, online location, and full abstract are provided below. We are happy to provide .pdf copies of the article on request by email (Brandon.Southall@sea-inc.net or kbenoit@coas.oregonstate.edu) as a professional courtesy.

Thanks,
Brandon Southall

————–

Benoit-Bird KJ, Southall BL, Moline MA. 2016. Predator-guided sampling reveals biotic structure in the bathypelagic. Proc. R. Soc. B 283: 20152457. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2015.2457

http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/283/1825/20152457.abstract

We targeted a habitat used differentially by deep-diving, air-breathing predators to empirically sample their prey’s distributions off southern California. Fine-scale measurements of the spatial variability of potential prey animals from the surface to 1200 m were obtained using conventional fisheries echosounders aboard a surface ship and uniquely integrated into a deep-diving autonomous vehicle. Significant spatial variability in the size, composition, total biomass, and spatial organization of biota was evident over all spatial scales examined and was consistent with the general distribution patterns of foraging Cuvier’s beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris) observed in separate studies. Striking differences found in prey characteristics between regions at depth, however, did not reflect differences observed in surface layers. These differences in deep pelagic structure horizontally and relative to surface structure, absent clear physical differences, change our long-held views of this habitat as uniform. The revelation that animals deep in the water column are so spatially heterogeneous at scales from 10 m to 50 km critically affects our understanding of the processes driving predator–prey interactions, energy transfer, biogeochemical cycling, and other ecological processes in the deep sea, and the connections between the productive surface mixed layer and the deep-water column.

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Marine Mammals and Noise in the Arctic

FOR INFORMATION

A recent media piece on noise in the Arctic was published online in Arctic Deeply. SEA Senior Scientist and close colleague Chris Clark of Cornell were among those featured in the article about the science and traditional knowledge of sound and mammal behavior in the Arctic. The link is below as well as several excerpt from the piece.

SE Alaskan horizon

http://www.arcticdeeply.org/articles/2016/02/8557/marine-mammals-unsettled-arctic-noise-grows/

Marine Mammals Unsettled as Arctic Noise Grows

February 19th, 2016 by Cheryl Katz

Industrial noise from ships, offshore development and military activity is exposing Arctic marine mammals to unprecedented amounts of man-made racket. With the retreat of the sea ice, scientists figure the Arctic Ocean will only get louder. Can they muffle the din?

Noise from industrial activities can disturb sea life throughout the world’s oceans, but the problem may be especially acute in the Arctic.Unnatural noise, such as airguns, ship engines, pile drivers and sonar pings, can damage a marine animal’s hearing, mask underwater communication and disrupt critical activities, including migration. The cacophony is compounded in the Arctic by weather noise that was once dampened by the ice blanketing the ocean.

Marine mammals, such as whales, rely on acoustic signals to forage, navigate, find mates and guide other key behaviors. The excess noise from human activities shrinks these animals’ acoustic habitat – the underwater area in which they are able to communicate – and this can hinder reproduction and jeopardize the population’s survival.

The problem can be especially pronounced in the Arctic, where the noise is heightened by the uniformly cold temperature of polar waters. Sound travels over longer distances and is closer to the surface in the Arctic than in temperate oceans – relaying noise across the same depths at which Arctic marine mammals spend most of their time. As a result, noise from a ship engine can be heard dozens of kilometers away and blasts from seismic airgun arrays, which fire several loud pulses a minute to map the ocean floor for oil and gas deposits, are audible for hundreds of kilometers.

“The sound scenes that we’re imposing on the Arctic Ocean are profoundly huge,” said Christopher Clark, a bioacoustics researcher at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, who has studied bowhead whales in northern Alaska for more than 30 years. The underwater noise levels from airguns, ships and offshore construction can be several times higher than the loudest natural background sounds. “The Arctic situation is critical because man-made noise activities have been relatively infrequent” until fairly recently, Clark said.

Silenced Songs and Thwarted Migration

The effect of noise on marine mammals is determined by a complex interplay of factors. Pitch, frequency, ambient conditions, distance, whether the sound source is moving and other specifics all influence an animal’s response to sound, said Brandon Southall, a bioacoustics researcher at U.C. Santa Cruz and the former director of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s ocean acoustics program.

For example, bowhead whale communication can be disrupted by relatively low noise levels in two distinct ways depending on the total amount of sound they receive over time. A recent study published in the journal PLOS One looked at the reaction of bowheads in the Beaufort Sea to noise from airguns during oil exploration from 2007 to 2010.

But other activities, such as military operations by nations with Arctic borders, appear to be ramping up. And ship traffic will likely increase in places as the sea ice continues to recede.

“I think we’ve learned enough, and there’s been enough responsible development, that it can be done in ways that minimize the effects,” said Southall. For starters, governments could restrict noisy activities during the spring when females with calves are present, and enforce “exclusion zones” that require airguns to stop if species such as bowheads or beluga come close.

“There’s some informed and adaptive ways,” Southall said. “But they need to be supported in a combination of science and traditional knowledge.”

Ocean Noise Feature on California Public Radio

SEA Senior Scientist Dr. Brandon Southall contributed to a recent feature story on ocean noise and some of the monitoring in the Cordell Bank NMSanctuary. The story aired on KQED public radio in San Francisco and is online as the featured post at KQED Science: http://ww2.kqed.org/science/ and the link to the specific post is: http://bit.ly/1Z2p6iM The radio story is embedded in the post and there is an audio player at the top. This feature was also included in it’s entirety on the California report on all NPR stations across the state this past weekend.

B. Southall and Expert Working Group Present: “A Risk Assessment Framework to Assess the Biological Significance of Noise Exposure on Marine Mammals”

An expert working group consisting of B. Southall, W. Ellison, C. Clark, and D. Tollit presented a poster summarizing a recently developed risk assessment framework to evaluate the potential significance of noise exposure on marine mammals. The poster was presented at the 21st Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals in San Francisco. The abstract of the poster is given below and a full version of the poster is available here (or is available from Brandon.Southall@sea-inc.net):

EWG Framework_SMM posterEWG Framework_FINAL poster

Developing objective and defensible methods to predict potential noise impacts on marine mammals is a very challenging issue with a rapidly evolving scientific basis. An expert working group of biologists, engineers, and acousticians developed a risk-assessment framework for evaluating potential effects of discrete noise exposures. The objective was to develop a systematic, analytical process using certain logical elements of previous assessment methods to predict effects on hearing and behavior, integrated with a biologically relevant framework in which to interpret the significance of those predictions. The scope was deliberately narrow in considering potential effects of seismic airgun surveys on Gulf of Mexico marine mammals. However, the intent was to derive an analytical process that could be both readily modified as new data become available and more broadly applicable. The resulting framework includes several important components: (1) ecologically relevant means of predicting animal distribution; (2) variance in animal density estimates; (3) behavioral aversion in animal movement models; (4) quantitative means of evaluating potential population consequences of disturbance (PCOD) relative to exposure magnitude and duration; and (5) risk-assessment methods that account for uncertainty in key parameters for evaluating disturbance as a function of biological and environmental context. The framework includes sequential stages consistent with current U.S. regulatory assessment methods and additional processes designed to provide biologically meaningful context to interpret potential responses. It benefited from and applied several parallel, recent advances in noise exposure criteria, PCOD modeling, and environmental risk assessment. It represents a significant step in evolving from relatively simplistic methods to more sophisticated approaches that consider biological, environmental, and contextual covariates. Applications of the analytical framework to several real-world scenarios are presented in terms of the framework’s performance and practicality, together with envisaged next steps for advancing the framework. Key progressions include incorporating increasingly sophisticated species-typical social structure, behavioral aversion, and habitat-selection parameters, into movement models and considering multiple noise sources over ecologically relevant spatial and temporal scales.

Brandon Southall’s second guest column in Times publications

The current issue of the Aptos/Capitola-Soquel/Scott’s Valley Times publications include a guest column by SEA Senior Scientist, Dr. Brandon Southall. This is a follow-on article to his 2 November 2015 article on ocean noise, focusing on some of the world-leading research being conducted by local Monterey Bay researchers. The article is on page 24 of the 1 January 2016 issue, which is available at: http://issuu.com/timespublishinggroup/docs/a11601_tab_issuu?e=3533832/32495414. A specific link to the individual articles will be available in the coming days. The text of the article and links to the featured research projects is given below.

 

“Local Researchers – Global Studies on Marine Sound” for The Times Publications

By Brandon L. Southall, Ph.D.

SEA & University of California, Santa Cruz

The ocean’s living soundscape reflects teeming life, wild weather, and the deep rumbling of the Earth’s movement. As discussed in my 2 November article, http://www.tpgonlinedaily.com/noisy-ocean-getting-noisier/ humans are newcomers to this scene but have increasingly added various noises. Some sources are loud and intermittent – others are less intense but chronic around ports and population centers.

How these may negatively effect marine life, especially marine mammals, has been the subject of much research, debate, and regulatory and conservation interest, increasingly so in recent decades. These are complex questions with local, national, and global implications.

We are fortunate to have world-class researchers here in Monterey Bay studying how these amazing animals perceive their environment, behave naturally, and respond to disturbances, including noise. Some work in controlled laboratory settings. Others study wild animals with increasingly sophisticated multi-sensor tools. Still others use mathematical models to predict consequences of disturbance for animal populations.

The University of California, Santa Cruz has long been a leader in studying marine mammals, both at Long Marine Laboratory and around the world. For instance, Dr. Colleen Reichmuth, a research biologist at the Institute of Marine Science, Pinniped Cognition and Sensory System Laboratory http://pinnipedlab.ucsc.edu studies hearing, visual, and tactile (“feel”) systems in seals and sea lions. Her team carefully measures how these amphibious mammals perceive sounds in quiet conditions, below and above water. Animals are trained to voluntarily participate in hearing studies, telling us what they hear by pressing a paddle, much like elementary school children in hearing screening tests. This allows Colleen and colleagues to measure how they hear and how noise can affect them.

Local researchers are using new technologies to measure marine mammal behavior in the field. Dr. Jeremy Goldbogen of Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station has pioneered multi-sensor data sampling and analytical methods using tags attached to individual marine mammals. His collaborative studies http://goldbogen.stanford.edu/ have shown detailed features of feeding strategies and behavioral changes in response to noise using high resolution movement sensors, simultaneous acoustic measurements of prey, and even high-definition videos from cameras riding on the backs of whales.

With many other colleagues, we’ve been applying these and other tools in a multi-disciplinary research team studying behavior and the effects of noise, including military sonar, on marine mammals in the Channel Islands www.socal-brs.org. The U.S. Navy has supported this research to better understand potential negative effects of their sonars. We have discovered many exciting new aspects of behavior in almost a dozen species, including that many animals clearly respond to such sounds, but their responses depend on the species tested, their behavior at the time, and contextual factors including distance from sound sources.

Many of the broader questions are moving from how individual behavior changes to how disturbance could negatively affect populations. Dr. Dan Costa’s long-standing research program at UC Santa Cruz studies the movement, foraging ecology, and energetics of various marine animals http://costa.eeb.ucsc.edu/. His work integrates aspects of feeding, reproduction, and survival for different species and what levels of disturbance would be required to result in population consequences.

These and other local researchers in our Monterey Bay hotbed of marine science are doing amazing science with local and global implications, increasing our understanding of how animals make, perceive, and respond to noise. Our appreciation has matured beyond more extreme concerns about dramatic loud events to an appreciation for more subtle kinds of responses and what they tell us about responsibly managing our activities in the ocean to ensure we continue to conserve these remarkable animals.

SOCAL-BRS

SOCAL-BRS is a study of basic behavior and responses to controlled sound exposures in a variety of marine mammal species.

Southall Environmental Associates, Inc.

Reducing environmental impacts from essential human activities requires unique approaches to meet challenging conservation objectives in the 21st century. SEA, Inc. works globally with diverse scientific teams and cutting-edge technologies to provide real-world solutions. Learn more about SEA