All Aboard the Maryland Research Cruise

By Kristin Hodge. June 29, 2017
Fred Channell preparing to program the MARUs in his ‘office.’Fred Channell preparing to program the MARUs in his ‘office.’

As a research analyst at BRP, I certainly spend much of my time in the office, analyzing acoustic data sets to investigate the seasonal occurrence and distribution of marine and terrestrial species. However, every once in a while, I get the opportunity to venture into the field to collect data first-hand. Most recently, I boarded the R/V Rachel Carson and assisted with the June 2017 research cruise out of Ocean City, Maryland.

In collaboration with Dr. Helen Bailey from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES), we are using passive acoustic monitoring to determine ambient noise levels and the acoustic occurrence of marine mammal species within and surrounding the Maryland Wind Energy Area (WEA). In this project, Dr. Bailey is deploying SM3M recorders and C-PODs to characterize the acoustic occurrence of dolphins and porpoises, and BRP is deploying Marine Autonomous Recording Units (MARUs) and an Autonomous Multichannel Acoustic Recorder (AMAR) to detect baleen whale vocalizations. Approximately every six months, the acoustic recording devices are collected and replaced with units that have fresh batteries and electronic storage media.

The SM3M, C-POD, MARU, and AMAR deployment locations within and surrounding the Wind Energy Area (WEA).

Upon arriving in Ocean City, Maryland, Fred Channell and I programmed ten MARUs and prepared them for the upcoming deployment. We then loaded the equipment onto the R/V Rachel Carson, reviewed boat safety with Captain Michael Hulme and the research crew, and discussed the cruise logistics.

Kristin Hodge putting a transducer and speaker into the water to retrieve a MARU.Kristin Hodge putting a transducer and speaker into the water to retrieve a MARU.
Jessica Wingfield and Caroline Wiernicki preparing to deploy recording equipment in the Maryland WEA. Aran Garrod and Fred Channell pictured in the background.Jessica Wingfield and Caroline Wiernicki preparing to deploy recording equipment in the Maryland WEA. Aran Garrod and Fred Channell pictured in the background.

Over the next four days, the UMCES and BRP crew worked like a well-oiled machine: we arrived at the marina every morning just before 0600 hours, steamed out to the Maryland WEA, and spent the next ten hours deploying and retrieving equipment. Weather and water conditions were great almost every day, and we didn’t encounter a single complication. We could not have asked for a better research cruise!

Fred Channell about to deploy a MARU in the Maryland WEA.Fred Channell about to deploy a MARU in the Maryland WEA.
Rob Nilsen and Fred Channell hauling a MARU onto the deck.Rob Nilsen and Fred Channell hauling a MARU onto the deck.

In about five months, we will be back in the Maryland WEA to retrieve the recording units currently in the water. In the meantime, we are busy extracting the storage media from the units we retrieved, after which we will analyze the data for the acoustic occurrence of baleen whale species. Stay tuned for our preliminary results!