Dr Douglas Gillespie
Back in the 1980’s available computers were not powerful enough to process acoustic data in real time. However, with the increased power available since the mid 90’s, it is now possible to develop software that will detect and classify sounds in real time on affordable PC’s.
As computers become ever more powerful, we have been able to develop more sophisticated detectors for more and more species, increasing the range of frequencies we can work at and the number of channels of data that can be processed. Now that we no longer hunger for more processing power, the trend in affordable computing has been for smaller and lower power devices. Indeed, most of us carry a mobile phone containing a processor that is more than capable of carrying out serious amounts of real-time data processing. Much of my current research therefore involves the development of detection systems that can run on low power devices mounted on moored buoys and autonomous vehicles such as submarine gliders. As well as the challenge of making useful detections on a limited power budget, we are also addressing the problem of how to interpret this type of data: for instance, if I hear 10,000 echolocation clicks from my glider, how many animals are there ?
Passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) is an effective way of detecting many species of cetacean and has an important role in abundance surveys and in detecting cetaceans in the vicinity of certain human activities which may cause harm, such as seismic surveys, military sonar exercises, offshore energy extraction and shipping.
Monitoring the Effects of Offshore Renewables
While offshore renewable energy has the potential to cut carbon emissions, the increased industrialisation of coastal areas may have a detrimental impact on some forms of marine life.
In particular, tidal turbines have the potential to injure or kill marine mammals should they be struck by moving turbine blades. Animals may be also be excluded from areas in which arrays of turbines have been installed.
We are using passive acoustics to study how small cetaceans (harbour porpoise and dolphins) behave in the immediate vicinity of tidal energy devices in order to answer the questions:
- Do animals approach operational turbines
- Is there any evidence of habitat exclusion
- Is there any evidence of fine scale avoidance behaviour in the immediate vicinity of turbine blades
We currently collect data from an operational turbine on the North Coast of Scotland from 12 hydrophones, each sampling at a high data rate of 500kHz. This monitoring program has now been operational for over one year using funds from the Scottish Government Marine Mammal Scientific Research Program.
PAMGuard is open source software for the detection and localisation of marine mammal vocalisations. It is optimised for real time use in the field and has applications both in abundance survey and in mitigation monitoring. I manage the PAMGuard project and wrote both the core structure of the PAMGuard and many of the detection, localisation and mapping modules within the software.
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Marine Pollution Bulletin 2017 vol.125 pp.360-366
Contact Details:Dr Douglas Gillespie
Scottish Oceans Institute
University of St Andrews
tel: 01334 462663
Sea Mammal Research Unit
School of Biology
Scottish Oceans Institute
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