National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2004

Sound in the sea: Hands-on experience with NOAA VENTS Program

Matsumoto, H., S. Nieukirk, M. Fowler, J. Haxel, S. Heimlich, D.K. Mellinger, R. Dziak, and C.G. Fox

In Proceedings of Oceans 2003 Marine Technology and Ocean Science Conference, San Diego, CA, 22–26 September 2003, 1565–1571 (2004)

Pacific Environmental Lab of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (PMEL/NOAA), with support from Ocean Exploration, has extended its hydrophone monitoring capability to the eastern Pacific by installing "Pioneer Seamount Acoustic Observatory" off California. Recently in the western Pacific, five moored autonomous hydrophones have been added to explore and monitor volcanic activity in the Mariana Islands. As a result, our passive autonomous hydrophone networks cover vast areas of the global oceans, and currently collect acoustic data at a rate of approximately 1 GByte/day. These data allow detection of low-magnitude seismicity associated with volcanic activity with more accurate source locations than from land-based seismic networks. The data are also used to study the distribution of large baleen whales in the open ocean, which is otherwise expensive to access. Drawing on our extensive collection of acoustic data and expertise in hydrophone technology development, in 2002 we created and executed a public outreach program called "Sound in the Sea." The program teaches middle and high school students the fundamentals of ocean acoustics. Using actual PMEL/NOAA hydrophone data, students explore epicenters of underwater earthquakes and identities of different species of whales based on their vocalization characteristics. Students also learn how to make a simple hydrophone using glue and a plastic eggshell (the "Easter egg hydrophone"), which they test dockside in Yaquina Bay, Oregon. The "Sound in the Sea" program provides an exciting hands-on experience.

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