ECU expects to receive funding to support these wave glider surveys from the NSF, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Office of Naval Research and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to study the impacts on whales and fishes and their food supply. These agencies will use the data to minimize impacts to the ecosystem, while allowing some energy extraction in areas away from critical habitats.
ECU’s model has a unique suite of sensors including a system for listening to and recording ocean soundscapes, sound-producing fishes and whales; an acoustic tag-detection system for finding tagged animals such as many fish species and sharks; and a fluorometer for measuring ocean color and plankton.
It also has a conductivity, temperature and depth sensor with oxygen-measurement capabilities. On the surface float are instruments for monitoring waves, currents and surface meteorology.
“It will send us alerts when right whales and other fishes are detected,” Luczkovich said. “So far, we have detected bottlenose dolphins and striped cusk eels (a sound-producing fish) in our first deployments. We are still analyzing the data; there was an acoustic algorithm match for right whale sounds, but that match has to be confirmed with our team after some additional work.”
His team has about 23 hours of sound files to analyze. Those files include red drum sounds as well as the sounds of an unidentified species that makes a quacking sound. The data also include temperature, salinity, ocean currents, turbidity and phytoplankton abundance.
Blackbeard is operated over an Internet connection via a satellite link and reports regularly on its location and sends data to shore. It can be at sea for one-month long missions.