Wave gliders: game changing technology for monitoring marine mammals

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Wave gliders: game changing technology for monitoring marine mammals

East Carolina University’s Blackbeard wave glider has survived its first at-sea trials this week and has been successfully deployed off the North Carolina coast. The Blackbeard wave glider is manufactured by Liquid Robotics and contains a St Andrews Instrumentation Decimus® system to detect marine mammals. The acoustic wave glider is an underwater robot designed to survey the ocean environment while relaying information to scientists both in the field and on land via satellite. Not only can it collect data on environmental conditions but it can also acoustically track fish, sharks, whales, and plankton.

Blackbeard is about the size of a small surfboard and can be programmed to travel along any given path using GPS. It uses wave movement to propel itself forward and has solar panels to power the electronics. Wave gliders are taking oceanographic data collection to the next level and can be deployed for a myriad of uses including marine mammal research, studies of ocean noise, and to determine the potential impacts of oil and gas exploration, offshore windfarms, tidal turbines, etc. On-board sensors record position, salinity, temperature, depth, oxygen concentration, and currents among others.

The scientists behind Blackbeard plan to use it to acoustically monitor endangered right whales as they migrate past the coast of North Carolina. This information is valuable to determine when and where the whales are located and to inform recovery strategies, improve policies, and implement mitigation measures that might help protect them from anthropogenic disturbance during their migration. New development projects in the marine environment (for example, bridges, oil rigs, ports, etc.) require environmental assessments to determine the potential impacts on species in the area, including marine mammals. Wave gliders are an exciting new technology that provide an effective method for monitoring these animals before, during, and after the construction of these projects.

See below to watch this cool new technology in action!

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