Rountree and his colleagues at SMAST are developing passive acoustic technologies for fisheries applications and for the exploration of aquatic environments. By listening for the calls produced by fishes, we can learn much about their behavior and habitat requirements without direct impacts to the environment (i.e. no nets!). Ongoing activities include:
Survey of soniferous fishes of Massachusetts. Begun in 2001 in collaboration with Francis Juanes (UMASS Amherst), this project uses "low tech" hydrophones and recording equipment from docks, piers, beaches, and small boats to study the seasonal occurrence and distribution of vocal fishes. An early surprise finding is the presence of spawning choruses of striped cusk-eels, Ophidion marginatum, which were previously thought to be only rare stragglers to Massachusetts waters (Funded by the Woods Hole Sea Grant Program).
Soniferous fishes of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (with Francis Juanes, UMASS Amherst and Joseph Blue, Leviathan Legacy, Inc.). This project is the first to use state of the art undersea technology including ROVs and ISIS underwater video systems equipped with a hydrophone array to seek out and find vocal groundfishes. Goals are to obtain field data of the sounds of cod, haddock and other temperate species, and to determine their sound source levels. A second goal is to develop a homing device to aid in the location of vocal fishes for video validation of the callers identity. And finally, the program seeks to demonstrate the usefulness of passive acoustics in the census of marine life and in ocean exploration (Funded by the Northeast and Great Lakes National Undersea Research Center, which also provides extensive logistical and technical support).
Identification of cod and haddock spawning habitat using passive acoustics (with Cliff Goudey, Center for Fisheries Engineering Research, MIT Sea Grant). For this project, scientists will work together with fishermen during the winter of 2002 to record cod and haddock sounds on the fishing grounds during the spawning season. Archival underwater sound recorders will be placed in various locations throughout the Gulf of Maine by the fishermen. The location and timing of cod and haddock spawning will be determined by examining the sound recordings for sounds known to be associated with spawning for the two species (Funded by the Northeast Consortium, Cooperative Fisheries Research Program).
National archive of fish sounds. SMAST researchers are working together with scientists from URI (Ken Hinga and Robert Kenney) and the Cornell Library of Natural Sounds (Jack Bradbury and Carol Bloomgarden) to rescue extensive historical archives of fish sounds and to establish a reference library of sounds for use by scientists and the public (Funded through the Rhode Island Sea Grant Program).