Friday, September 12, 2014

Coral reef soundscape study: Maui, HI

EAR acoustic recorder boards
ready to program

Today marked the first field deployment of a project that has been several months in the making. I am in Maui, working with Marc Lammers and Eden Zang of Oceanwide Science Institute, which is based here in Maui. The purpose of this investigation is to comprehensively study coral reef soundscapes and link them to the biota on those reefs. To do this, we have selected several reefs from all along the west coast of Maui.

We are deploying two types of acoustic recording device: the EAR, developed by Marc, and the DMON, developed at WHOI. The last few months have involved tireless work on the DMON by Jim Partan, a WHOI engineer, and after some lessons learned from field testing in Palau last month, Jim has made the DMON as robust as possible. The first of many went in the water today and, a few months from now, we will see how they fared.

Back in business
Marc with the faulty
ignition coil
The first days of this expedition went very smoothly and involved pouring concrete moorings to affix the recorders to and preparing the instruments for deployment. Today was our first field day, and from the beginning, things felt a little different. To our immense dismay, the boat we are using did not start once in the water. After a few hours of peering into the engine compartment, with the help of a mechanic who happened to be at the boat ramp, we had identified what we thought at the time was our problem - a broken ignition coil. A quick trip to an auto parts store for the part and we were almost back in business. However, in our earlier attempts to start the engine, we had killed the battery! Back to the store for a new battery, and we finally made it out to sea.

Instruments deployed
We deployed our instruments on a patch reef and carried out visual surveys for coral cover and fish diversity right then. The recorders will be out for 4-5 months, and we hypothesize that the recordings will vary considerably among different reefs. But how different are the deployment sites in what lives there and their 3-dimensional structure? That remains to be seen.

Max Kaplan

A large turtle resting on the reef as we carry out our visual surveys

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