Eavesdropping on killer whales in the Salish Sea

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Eavesdropping on killer whales in the Salish Sea

We are thrilled to launch the first of our live passive acoustic monitoring systems, the upgraded Lime Kiln Hydrophone Station is now live streaming around the world!

 

Lime Kiln hydrophone button

This spring the SMRU North America team, led by Dr. Jason Wood installed an upgraded shore-linked live hydrophone system at Lime Kiln Point State Park on San Juan Island. Wherever you are in the world you can eavesdrop on the underwater world of the Salish Sea. If you are lucky enough, you will hear the calls and echolocation clicks of the endangered Southern Resident killer whales (SRKW).

Jason Wood (SMRU Consulting) and Jennifer Olson (Whale Museum) installing the new hydrophone system at Lime Kiln.

June is orca (killer whale) awareness month in Washington State. A great month in which to launch our hydrophone project. SMRU Consulting North America have led many research projects on the Southern Residents killer whales. For example we compiled 10 years of US and Canadian sighting data to estimate relative density. We developed a SRKW-noise exposure model, and we also ran a baseline passive acoustic monitoring project measuring ambient noise, shipping noise levels, and SRKW habitat use at Roberts Bank and in Haro Strait (from the current Lime Kiln hydrophone location).

The Southern Resident killer whales are popular with visitors and locals alike. They are often seen traveling close to shore as they hunt for salmon. Over the course of a year more than 200,000 visitors will flock to Lime Kiln Point State Park on the west side of San Juan island hoping for a chance to see these iconic whales as they swim past the lighthouse, and right over our hydrophone.

The Lime Kiln live hydrophone system is a unique collaboration between SMRU Consulting North America and the Whale Museum. It uses the Data Acquisition Card (DAQ) technology designed by our sister company SA Instrumentation from St Andrews in the UK.  The project is partly funded by the Port of Vancouver’s ECHO (Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation) program and is supported by NOAA. This project is a truly international collaboration for a global audience.

The hydrophone station provides a great opportunity for research and education. Our first project is a long-term acoustic study on the regions’ ambient underwater noise conditions for the Port of Vancouver. Other projects will include investigating harbor porpoise presence around Lime Kiln.

Lime Kiln Listening Station

The outreach and education opportunities are fantastic, these are spearheaded by the Whale Museum and their Sea Sound project. There is a specially designed listening kiosk at the lighthouse so that you can see and hear the whales as they pass by, and the live audio links allow people to listen in from all over the world (you can even check out where in the world people are listening on the interactive map on our dedicated webpage

So if you ever wanted to listen in on this underwater world where rockfish can be heard grunting, killer whales calling and ships passing by check out our webpage dedicated to this project (click the button above and you will be taken right there!). We will be posting updates on this blog on the data we collect and interesting acoustic encounters so be sure to sign up or follow us on Twitter @SMRU_Consulting

Lime Kiln Live Hydrophone

Related projects and links

About the Author:

Frances is a Research Scientist at SMRU Consulting North America. Check out her bio under the "About Us" tab.

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