Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico

The Gulf of Mexico is a highly productive regionand home to many different species of marinemammals. The Scripps Whale Acoustics Lab is collaborating with NOAA and other organizations to survey and assess the consequences of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010.

Our research in the Gulf of Mexico concerns the long-term acoustic monitoring of marine mammals, including sperm whales, bryde’s whales, and other dolphin species.

The primary objectives of this project are:

- Evaluate the incidence of marine mammal exposure to oil and potential injuries
- Assess changes in animal distribution correlated to oil exposure

In order to achieve these objectives the lab is utilizing a mixture of passiveacoustic instruments. High-frequency acoustic recording packages, or HARPs, have been deployed to the sea floor for long-term recordings ranging up to several months in duration. In addition a towed hydrophone array is used during research cruises for real-time monitoring and localization of animals within range of the instrument. Sonobuoys are used in coordination with the towed hydrophone array to improve localization and tracking in real-time. The sonobuoys are equipped with special directional frequency analysis and recording (DIFAR) capabilities, allowing our scientists acquire magnetic bearings to specific sound sources. Image to the right shows the recovery of a harp from site GulfofMexico01MC.

Survey area for leg 1 of the larger assesment

Zoom of survey map with detailed legend. Click to enlarge.

The combination of these passive acoustic tools will provide quantitative measures of species-specific occurrence in an approximately 450 mile by 15 mile region over an extended period of time, where the region sampled includes the high impact areanear the incident site and areas several hundreds of miles distant. Additionally one of the goals of the program’s integrated data analyses is to look for indications that spatio-temporal changes in species-specific detection rates, are correlated with spatio-temporal changes in oil distribution.

People involved in this project include:

John Hildebrand
Josh Jones
Chris Garsha
Karlina Merkins
Brent Hurley
Ethan Roth
Kait Fraser
Bruce Thayre


































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Credit: Melissa Soldevilla