Glider-Based Passive Acoustic Monitoring in the Arctic
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AbstractPersistently poor weather in the Arctic makes traditional marine mammal research from aircraft and ships difficult, yet collecting information on marine mammal distribution and habitat utilization is vital for understanding the impact of climate change on Arctic ecosystems.
Moreover, as industrial use of the Arctic increases with the expansion of the open-water summer season, there is an urgent need to monitor the effects of noise from oil and gas exploration and commercial shipping on marine mammals. During September 2013, we deployed a single Slocum glider
equipped with a digital acoustic monitoring (DMON) instrument to record and process in situ low-frequency (<5 kHz) audio to characterize marine mammal occurrence and habitat as well as ambient noise in the Chukchi Sea off the northwest coast of Alaska, USA. The DMON was programmed
with the low-frequency detection and classification system (LFDCS) to autonomously detect and classify sounds of a variety of Arctic and sub-Arctic marine mammal species. The DMON/LFDCS reported regularly in near real time via Iridium satellite detailed detection data, summary classification
information, and spectra of background noise. The spatial distributions of bowhead whale, bearded seal, and walrus call rates were correlated with surface salinity measured by the glider. Bowhead whale and walrus call rates were strongly associated with a warm and salty water mass of Bering
Sea origin. With a passive acoustic capability that allows both archival recording and near real-time reporting, we envision ocean gliders will become a standard tool for marine mammal and ocean noise research and monitoring in the Arctic.