Research Programs

Soniferous Fishes of Massachusetts
Rodney Rountree, School for Marine Science and Technology, University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, 706 South Rodney French Blvd., New Bedford, MA 02744.

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:

Researcher watching video and audio footage
Figure 1. Video and audio observations of fish are recorded to a VCR using a drop camera and attached hydrophone.

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).





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Figure 2. An array of three hydrophones is attached to an ISIS underwater video system to monitor fishes in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

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 caller’s 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).


Photo of a haddock
Figure 3. Haddock, Melanogrammus aeglefinus, is a well known soniferous fish. Sounds are produced by males during courtship and spawning.

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).

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