Dr. Maya Tolstoy
Earth Institute Contact: Dr. Maya Tolstoy
Locations: Gulf of Mexico
The impact of man-made acoustic sources on marine mammals, and specifically on whales, is a topic of increasing concern for the oceanographic community. However, there is a paucity of definitive data on the topic in terms of both well-calibrated measurements of man-made noise sources, and the differing responses of the many species of whale to these sources. The recent beaching of two Cuvier’s beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris) in the Gulf of California during operation of the R/V Ewing’s airgun array in the region has focused attention on the academic marine geophysical community. Permitting regulations for future active source seismic experiments are in jeopardy if source levels can’t be accurately determined. In this proposal, we seek funds to support LDEO and R/V Ewing participation in the upcoming Sperm Whale Seismic Study (SWSS), an ongoing project supported by the Minerals Management Service and the Office of Naval Research, to investigate impacts of airgun sources on a population of Sperm Whales in the Gulf of Mexico. Our participation will also include calibration of the Ewing’s acoustic sources. We also propose a substantial modeling effort to allow prediction of received signal strengths for future experiments and permitting applications. The overall objective is to provide a better understanding of man-made acoustic sources and their impacts on whales. Specific objectives of this LDEO proposal to NSF include: direct participation in the SWSS experiment to help determine the impact of airguns on whales; development and utilization of a real-time calibrated hydrophone buoy to accurately constrain source levels; measurement and calibration of acoustic noise sources on the R/V Ewing; developing the ability to model the R/V Ewing acoustic noise sources in varying topography and water depth; and a detailed technical report on R/V Ewing operations during the Gulf of California experiment. The broader impacts of this work are significant. It will provide quantitative data on the acoustic source levels from the R/V Ewing, as well as assisting in providing quantitative analysis of the impact of airguns on sperm whales. The modeling will provide data to help minimize any potential risk to marine mammals in future experiments. These are issues of great interest to scientists, environmental groups and the general public. The work proposed here is also critical for establishing accurate baselines for permitting of future marine seismic experiments, and so will be of broad interest to the geophysical community.
Cross Cutting Themes:
National Science Foundation