Author Archive

well its been awhile

Summer is almost over, but im finally getting around to editing that final paper a bit more, figure i’d get some these things done before I go start my crazy senior year. Editing also led me to reminiscing about beam reach, and looking at the videos.

 And funny too how I still ended up doing a lit bit of sound work this summer at the zoo- been helping develop a behavioral monitoring program at Brookfield Zoo, and with that you need to collect data on different variables that might effect that behavioral, so hence we’ve been measuring sound levels around the park. Not recording actually, they are called docimeters, and they measure the average dB level each minute, as well as measure the peak sound level of each minute. The devices we use are acutally designed for workers at their jobs the meaure the amount of sound exposure in their work place- here we are using them by hanging them up in trees in fake bird houses, and the most fun one is up in the ceiling of the monkey house- the first time we put it up there the baboons were screaming like crazy before the visitors came in, and as it eerily echoed up to us as we looked down from the opening above them, I have a vision of Dante’s inferno…

 Anyways, the even more fun(!) part is that we get to analyze the data and work on making a database (i.e. me stumbling through access)- and what little we have looked at so far we haven’t found too much of any effect on behavior- but then again the averages we get aren’t changing much- but more analyzing to come for the final presentation in a few weeks, so maybe we’ll get some different results. But then again, no effect isnt a bad thing at all- im pretty sure most zoo animals get used to all the noise, especially with the constant construction here.

 So no hydrophones, but hey at least some acoustics 🙂 i got to ask smart questions like if they are calibrated or if they can measure frequency.

Other than that, been working on my own project investigating how the placement of an observer effects an animal’s behavior, but I also found out that zoo keepers bring special guests to feed the animals im looking at, so that kinda skewed my results a bit – but nevertheless I’m still going on with it, and at the same time I’m now trying to help out the female Grevy Zebra get pregnant- I hope I can get that one to work out.

 Well thats all for now, i suppose this is a bit random, but I thought beam reachers would be happy to learn about some zoo acoustics

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final week madness

jeez you’d think after going to a college with 10 week terms I’d be used to chugging along through the final crunch, but I guess not! the work’s definately cut out for us this week, but it will get done … … … … its the getting done part thats the toughie…

the last week on water was an interesting one- who knew that we’d almost wish the whales would give us a break some time so we could analyze some data, or at least in my case wish there were absolutely NO marine mammals around so I could do my light bulb experiments- its quite funny. In total we ended up having 11 days with the whales- not bad for having no days for our first two weeks. And the amount of click day is ENDLESS….I wonder how many clicks total were recorded – I bet like 50,000 at least- what an excellant sample size that could be! (haha, yes note the “could” be). I ended up getting my other desperately needed spreading loss data- because of a certain seal (I lets call him Pesky Pete) I couldn’t do my experiment in Salmon bank, but found some shallow and seal-free waters in Griffin Bay before we headed into FHL for our one last time…

 we didn’t get to sail too much our last week 🙁 but I did get a few chances to sail the Cyprid, which I quite enjoyed, except the wind liked to die-off in rapid bursts and then gust for a few moments while I was in there. My hand-made anemone turned out pretty cool, in a very un-planned way which made it look like a realistic anemone at low tide (the big squishy ones)- I hope the Beach watchers like it (and i also hope it doesn’t get stuck to anything, it’s basically made out of glue), the tentacles actually come in and out!

besides the data collection (and awesome photos of breaches, tail slaps, J1, and yes MORE dork) we had nights of flight of the conchords, excellent food, analyzing data, analyzing problems in our analyzing programs, re-analyzing data after figuring out what we did wrong in our analyzer programs, and cliff diving- and we made it out alive! I also flew Val’s kite again off the Gato Verde, which also almost got lost at sea and it’s tail stuck in the prop, but was rescued (our man-over board drills have been really handy) and got to flying again for one last hurrah! I must say it was sad after our last day, even though we were exhausted after it all and cleaning the whole boat- no more whales or towing arrays for a while 🙁

 and now I am back to work!

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Orca echos and diatom blooms

Thursday 05/22/08
Snug Harbor to Snug Harbor

This morning we got a voice message letting us know that the whales were spotted at Hein Bank at about 8:00 AM. After an invigorating breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast, with a dash of onions and peppers, we set off to go south from Snug to catch up with the whales.

While we were busy beginning to deploy the Echosounder to get some bathymetric data around Lime Kiln, the leaders of the pod got to us first, so we began a scramble to deploy our hydrophones. Unfortunately, the CRT gave us some difficulty, so we spent some time cleaning out the phantom box, and testing different flow noise sources of the hydrophone and by going at different speeds. Eventually solving the problem, we were back on track to re-deploy and gather some data! We began to log Echosounder data as we recorded hydrophone data.

We had a very exciting first session right in the main shipping lane, with one whale breaching twice in a row off our portside stern, proceeding later with more breaches and tail slaps. We were quite astonished. After the spectacular show, the whales seemed to mellow out, and began to slowly travel/rest north along the west side.

At about 1:30 in the afternoon we decided we would tilt the Echosounder 90 degrees in order to try to ensonify a whale and see what a 200 kHz whale echo looks like. With much luck and Scott’s excellent angling abilities, we were able to track a group of whales at ranges of up to 170 meters.

Meanwhile, during this macroorganism action we also had some very exciting microorganism action. Robin and Lindsay used two 20-micron plankton tow nets to collect diatoms off of Lime Kiln. They filtered the water they collected in the homemade single-use coffee press and looked at the remaining diatoms left on the filter paper under the microscope. We found that there was a single species bloom, which is unusual because the samples Robin has taken at the labs have contained many species.

Afterwards we began to record some more hydrophone data, following the resting whales until they reached Boundary Pass, where they began to vocalize and regroup from their scattered positions (we estimated about 9 whales in the group). It was a very interesting display of tail slaps and pectoral slaps, with the whales getting silent as a large ship passed through the scene.

To avoid the growing flood, we made our way back to Snug Harbor (while flying a kite along the way), dropping off the lovely Robin. We ended the evening with some sunset dingy lessons from our wind blown Capt’n Mike.

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whales, sharks, and good times

what a day for whale watching it was this last thursday!

off the southern end of San Juan around noon time we found two leading whales from J pod, with the rest of the group scattered widely further south amongst the many whale watch boats. while we did manage to get some good click data, the whales were generally quiet and it was hard to find or get to them considering how spread out they were.

But finally after all the whale watch boats left Salmon Bank our patience paid off and we found a group of 5-6 whales and recorded many clear calls, clicks, and whistles in very serene calm water and clear sunny skies – we saw a lot of action too – pectoral and tail slaps, breaches, and yes, even some dork!!!!! (all within 100-200m!) we think these two lovebirds were just playing- we did make a few matches, and with further analyzing we’re going to try to ID those two as well. Hands down we all agreed it was our best day yet.

We tried again yesterday to catch up to the whales, but they moved too quickly north for us to catch up. The day was still exciting- we encountered a headless shark around False bay, which we believe is a thresher shark- and it looks like there are teeth mark where the head was taken- suggesting perhaps some Orcas got to it! We brought it aboard (and it sure was soupy) and passed it along to FHL for them to necropsy- and I spent the rest of my day getting some echosounder data from False bay to Lime Kiln, and then burst another light bulb at a deeper depth- I think I really got some good sound on this one!

so it looks like our work it cut out for us these next 3 weeks- i can’t believe we only have 3 weeks left- I’m going to try and make the most of it while I can

i’m off to try and make my own anemone for my service project…

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bloggin from Snug

the whales are back!

 yesterday after making a few phone calls in the morning we found J-pod off the southern tip of San Juan! We got some wonderful recordings along Salmon Bank – and even though it was cold, raining, and miserable, I don’t think any one of the beam reacher’s noticed – in fact I think I can say for everyone it was our best day yet – I’ve never seen so many breaches and tail slaps in my life!!

 The coolest part was when J27 was following directly behind us for about 20 minutes (he seemed to like us) not only did he completely jump out of the water (which we could pick up on the radar!) but he clicked away loud and clear staight towards our hydrophones – and we’re pretty sure we got some foraging actions with all his deep dives and clear clicks with no calls for the duration. It was very cool and I can’t wait to look at the data!

 My other task, (which of course is more reliant on finding time now in between our hopefully now frequent sightings) is to start deploying my light bulb clicks and test for some masking effects. I was a bit daughted for a while about getting it all done, mostly because I hadn’t actually found a good enough mechanism for making a click – but my most recent recordings show that my light bulb bursts aren’t so bad after all- so now I feel like I’m going somewhere.

 It should only get better (and busy busy busier) from now on – and it should be sunny and warm by the end of this week!!


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Tim Hunt helps measure lightbulb sounds

Today on land I performed an experiment in order to measure the attenuation of a light bulb breaking under water. At the FHL dock a lined up the array with the CRT in place of hydrophone D. At the other end of the dock I lowered a light bulb about 4.8 m in depth 35m away from the CRT, and 75 away from Hydrophone A, etc, and dropped a weight on the bulb to make it break. I recorded two files, one with our class gain settings, and the second with the gain settings as low as the sound devices allowed me to put them, because I could hear the light bulb breaking under water and I imagined the sound would clip on the recording devices. Tim Hunt helped me out setting up the experiment and gave me some advice.

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out to sea

i didn’t get a chance to post these at port while at sea- so here’s my journal entries from the last few weeks:


Well it’s my first official night on the Gato Verde. Lo and behold I ended up in the portside forecastle – I volunteered, I kind of like it. It’s definitely the smallest space I’ve ever slept in – but it’s roomier than I thought – though I wonder how organized I’m actually going to be (and how moist).

But here the sea is completely around me, literally 6 inches to the right and left of me – I can hear every creek of the boat and the ripples of the water – I have a little port hole window looking out to the water and a hatch to look straight out to the sky – I know I’m not very far away from everyone (I can hear Juan and Ryan talk at the moment) but I’ve already gotten lost in solitude here.

I remember my time in the forecastle last time in the Harvey Gamage – the initial anxiety that soon turned into comfort, ease, and enjoyment – I’m just slightly in the anxiety phase right now – that I hope I can do everything phase-

In fact tomorrow I’ll be getting up to explore Jones Island a bit with Scott!


Earth Day!

Today we headed out of Prevost Harbor into the high seas after spending the night at the dock at Stewart Island. We had maybe 3-4 foot waves with 20-30 knot winds! It was my favorite time to sail – I love the adventure of it!

The night before I strolled around Stewart Island – it was so quiet – all I could hear was my echo travel in a circle around the inland water and the croaking of frogs.


So much has happened that I haven’t blogged about- guess I’ve been out at sea too long (I’m not complaining).

I definitely got over that anxiety part- I sure don’t mind my bunk and life on the boat got easy pretty quick- I don’t even mind not eating meat (except with a few occasional binges on shore). We haven’t seen any whales yet (we’re starting to wonder why they aren’t here), but we did see some Stellars and a Dall’s Porpoise (I’m still pulling to see a Gray whale). There have been some wonderful quiet nights and sunsets while anchored on the Gato Verde and it’s great to just be surrounded by nature and the tides are the currents.

Even though some of us seemed a bit groggy to get back on the boat last week for our second round, I quickly woke out of it when we decided to head out for Port Angeles in search of transients. I had very much wanted to go to the Olympic Peninsula – and it was good to on a “far” voyage from the San Juan islands – though we didn’t encounter any rough seas…I don’t think mountains or the sea for that matter will ever cease to fascinate me!

And yesterday I caught my first ever fish (3 for that matter…)!! (and yes I have been fishing before- I just was never lucky enough to catch a fish!). Eric came by to try out his fish tags for the lingcod- and I caught a 26-inch lingcod that we named Ted for our first candidate! The surgery went well and after my shaky release of Ted we could hear his sonar tag with the hydrophone! Today as we wait as Roche Harbor for our broken engine were going to go back out again to get another fish for the second tag- all of the few fish we caught yesterday afternoon either became eagle food or food for eagle disputes – perhaps I’ll catch another one!

Other than that my primary work has been to figure out how to make my own high frequency “clicks” to play under water. So far I have attempted to burst a light bulb and get the speaker to play some previously recorded clicks, although they don’t have a great enough amplitude yet in my opinion to be heard under water, or travel very far either- but I think once I get part this hurdle I can really move forward in my project, and while I don’t need the whales as my as my classmates- I really do hope they come when we are back at sea in a week.

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almost out to sea!

in just a few short days we’re finally going to set foot on the Gato Verde!

i had been a bit daunted about how i was going to pull off my research idea as well as understand it all in time, but after meeting with Jason today I now pumped to start getting to work! I decided to go about recording actual masking, so I am going to play clicks from the underwater speaker while boats go by (and a whole bunch of other things too- I’m working on the list…) It finally feels like things are coming together for the trip- like all the food we bagged up at the NOLS center in Skagit, and putting together the watch rotation.

For now I’m going to enjoy FHL while I still have the chance…


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a busy week!

such a busy week with all the proposal writing and running around- but now with our day off I have some time to type!

Got the rough draft of my proposal done- I’m officially going to try to study the masking of echolocation clicks by high frequency boat noise- I’m excited, but now I have to figure out just how I am going to do it. So far modeling seems to be a route, but I would love to find a way to actually document masking, which is the tricky part—how can you show a sound that is lost in another sound? Hopefully I can figure it out.

We also had a very interesting talk by Russel Barsh last week about the diet of juvenile salmon, but the talk was so much more than about that. It was more about ecology as a whole, and I found his philosophy inspiring about different disciplines working together. He mentioned how salmon scientists compete for funds with the whale scientists- how ridiculous! Obviously Orcas are affected by what the salmon are doing, and the salmon are affected by what they eat and their habitats- for instance a lot of the causes we are looking at that are causing the decline of the killer whales may not be so direct- it could lie within what those juveniles are eating (or not finding enough of anymore) and so if studies like that aren’t funded, we might never find the actual problem.

I guess I really liked his talk- as well as his thoughts about a grassroots way of changing the world- He tried to get into international policy and change, and finding it didn’t get him very far, now tries to just change the opinions of his local community. I must admit I’ve also come to the realization that people won’t ever really change unless something is affecting them- and as Russel says they must care about what they want to save- to feel a connection to it.

Ooh so much more happened this week! We also went to an oyster farm last week where we looked at the different invertebrates and the water quality of the area. We spent most of the time tromping around in the mudflats collecting shells and getting stuck- it was quite fun, even when I managed to fall right on my behind in the water. It was a really cool day all together – we saw these funny llamas with “punk” hairdos as Val described them on the drive up, and on the way home we stopped at the Center for Whale Research, which wasn’t like I imagined at all – I thought it would be a very official sort of complex, but it is a much more relaxed and wonderful place- with a lot of history and new technology all sitting in the same room, with lots of stories to share about them- and very interesting research! I was excited to see the tags they are using on transients in their winter migration- maybe those can someday be on the Southern Residents!

And last but not least- we spent the weekend in Vancouver! I was SO excited (thanks Scott! 🙂 We headed up there for the Northwest Student Chapter meeting, where we got to listen to a bunch of grad student’s research in the area. It was great to get a better perspective of grad school life and see students start to collaborate, as well as chat with some during the breaks- who knows at the moment UBC sounds pretty cool for grad school at the moment. Afterwards we headed downtown to our hostel, had some awesome Greek food (there are so many ethnic restaurants and culture in the area!), play cards on the beach watching the sunset, then walked around town – Dominique and I ended up finding a cool band called the “Soul Train Express” (sounds like a band I’d love right off the bat) – they were really cool and you could tell the lead singer was very into his music- it’s one of those bands you can only really enjoy live!

And on Sunday we went to the aquarium- something I’ve been wanting to do for awhile- and we got a behind the scenes tour as well- we got to look at the UBC’s research lab and what they do with the Stellar sea lions, and the adopt a whale office as well- looks like there are a lot of opportunities. And I loved the belugas! I feel like lately between the Student chapter meetings and my own personal debates that the importance of aquariums has been a repeating theme, but I definitely think Vancouver Aquarium does a good job in its presentation, research, and environmental concern. Overall I was in heaven in Vancouver exploring the city, aquarium, research, education, and of course- the mountains- I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of being around mountains!

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a succesful tack!

Today we practiced sailing on Jason’s little dingy the Cyprid, as well as testing out how to use the hydrophones and underwater speaker. There was a seagull listening near by, and when he heard the S1 call from the speaker on deck I heard him start to cawk at it- Seabird and Orca communication!

It was so much fun! It really is the best way to sail- and Dominique and I were able to successfully tack on our voyage- which faced perils such as the massive ferry heading full speed towards us (from 1/2 mile away)- but thanks to our tacking techniques we were able to dodge just in the nick of time!

Lindsay and I also poked an anemone off the side of the dock- it sucked our finger and we got Ryan to touch it too! What a wonderful way to end the week! 

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