A guest post from NCSU graduate student Pat Lyon about a new project we are conducting in the Bight of Old Robinson. Thanks Pat! The research has similarities with that of the Bahamas Marine Mammal Organization is conducting, just with fish instead of whales.
Soundscapes, or the acoustic signature of both biotic and abiotic entities within an ecosystem, are a new and relatively untested method for describing characteristics of marine habitats. Through the use of underwater microphones called hydrophones, we can record anything from boat noise to fish vocalizations in order to paint a picture of an acoustically active and dynamic habitat. Our research goal is to predict the diversity and presence of organisms within a habitat using these passive acoustic recorders.
Our study sites, located on Great Abaco Island of the Bahamas, consist of several man-made reefs. These reefs are frequently visited by multiple species of fish and serve as essential habitat for spiny lobster and small reef fish. Through the juxtaposition of 7 different acoustic metrics with data retrieved from fish surveys, we can evaluate which metrics better describe the populations at these reefs. From this study, we hope to be able to determine which metrics describe these habitats the best and how these habitats are acoustically similar to others already tested.
The hydrophones are mounted on galvanized pvc as seen in the picture above. They are then lathered with a Vaseline-cayenne pepper mixture (really) to prevent biofouling.