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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Studies of ambient noise in shallow water environments off Mexico and Alaska : : characteristics, metrics and time- synchronization applications

  • Author(s): Guerra, Melania
  • et al.

Sound in the ocean originates from multiple mechanisms, both natural and anthropogenic. Collectively, underwater ambient noise accumulates valuable information about both its sources and the oceanic environment that propagates this noise. Characterizing the features of ambient noise source mechanisms is challenging, but essential, for properly describing an acoustic environment. Disturbances to a local acoustic environment may affect many aquatic species that have adapted to be heavily dependent on this particular sense for survival functions. In the case of marine mammals, which are federally protected, demand exists for understanding such potential impacts, which drives important scientific efforts that utilize passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) tools to inform regulatory decisions. This dissertation presents two independent studies that use PAM data to investigate the characteristics of source mechanisms that dominate ambient noise in two diverse shallow water environments. The study in Chapter 2 directly addresses the concern of how anthropogenic activities can degrade the effectiveness of PAM. In the Alaskan Beaufort Sea, an environment where ambient noise is normally dominated by natural causes, seismic surveys create impulsive sounds to map the composition of the bottom. By inspecting single-sensor PAM data, the spectral characteristics of seismic survey airgun reverberation are measured, and their contribution to the overall ambient noise is quantified. This work is relevant to multiple ongoing mitigation protocols that rely on PAM to acoustically detect marine mammal presence during industrial operations. Meanwhile, Chapter 3 demonstrates that by analyzing data from multiple PAM sensors, features embedded in both directional and omnidirectional ambient noise can be used to develop new time-synchronization processing techniques for aligning autonomous elements of an acoustic array, a tool commonly used in PAM for detecting and tracking marine mammals. Using the time-synchronization procedures shown here, arrays may be built out of stand-alone recorders that simplify the deployment logistics and can be arranged in multiple configurations. Given increasing economic pressures worldwide, anthropogenic activities in the ocean are only expected to expand, and their ambient noise contributions will continue to rise. These studies provide baseline knowledge and practical tools to help properly assess the impact of such source mechanisms in shallow- water acoustic environments

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