Skip to main content

Acoustics & marine mammals

Species occurrence and distribution modelling of bottlenose dolphins using data obtained through citizen science

Citizen science has the potential to provide a wealth of opportunities to monitor what are often remotely distributed species at a relatively low cost. Accurately modelling their distribution and occurrence generally requires presence and absence data. However, citizen science data usually consist of presence-only observations. This project presents a unique opportunity to test and compare the accuracy and effectiveness of multiple modelling approaches on presence/absence observations of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in the Swan Riverpark (Western Australia) collected over 6 years by citizen scientists. There is a possibility for the student to develop new statistical approaches if the student has advanced statistical skills. This project will contribute meaningfully to current scientific needs in this area of research. By ensuring that modelling techniques used can be applied effectively to citizen scientists, a much greater capacity for effective management and conservation of significant species will become available through more robust analysis and interpretation of data from citizen science programs.

Post-graduate project type

Suits a two-year Masters student with strong skills in applied statistics and R.

Citizen Science program

Dolphin Watch, Department of Parks and Wildlife
(Dolphin Watch is run by DPaW with the collaboration of Curtin and Murdoch Universities)

Anticipated commencement

June 2016

Please contact

Dr. Chandra P. Salgado Kent
Centre for Marine Science and Technology
Department of Imaging and Applied Physics
c.salgado@curtin.edu.au

Higher degree topics: underwater acoustics and marine mammal science

The Centre for Marine Science & Technology at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia, is looking for motivated students to undertake research towards an M.Sc. or Ph.D. degree in underwater acoustics or marine bioacoustics. We currently have M.Sc. and Ph.D. topics available in the following areas:

  • The physics of anthropogenic noise (noise source characterisation, research into the underlying noise generation mechanisms, development of predictive noise models etc.)
  • Underwater sound propagation
  • Underwater acoustic technology & measurements
  • Underwater soundscapes & ambient noise (source characterisation, temporal & geographic variability, trends)
  • Bioacoustic analysis software development
  • Passive acoustic monitoring of cetaceans, including population density estimation
  • Noise effects on marine animals (mammals, fish, plankton, birds)

Most of our current projects require a strong background in acoustics, physics, engineering or computer science. Depending on topic, students will be supervised by Dr. Alec Duncan, Dr. Christine Erbe, Dr. Alexander Gavrilov, Dr. Rob McCauley or Dr. Chandra Salgado-Kent.

While there is some logistical and field support for some of these projects, students are encouraged to apply for scholarships to cover tuition fees and living costs.

Interested applicants please email a CV to either Christine Erbe or Rob McCauley

Good Honours graduates in physical sciences, engineering and applied science are invited to pursue higher degree studies at the Centre for Marine Science and Technology (CMST) at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia. CMST comprises a multi-skilled body of physicists, naval architects, acousticians, engineers and scientists committed to high quality research and development in marine science and technology. The Centre is offering the following research topics:

Marine/fisheries acoustics PhD

Whale movement patterns in South-Western Australia

The goal of this project is to identify and characterise the passage of great whales passing through the listening area of an underwater noise logger deployed off the SW coast, from their vocalisations. CMST has developed low-power, low-noise sea noise loggers for monitoring ambient noise. The noise loggers provide an unobtrusive means of monitoring vocalising fishes, great (or large) whales, physical noise sources and man-made noise. The noise loggers are particularly powerful at elucidating temporal patterns in marine animal visitation as they have such a fine sampling definition This high sampling definition must be tempered with the fact that not all animals may vocalise and so be detected by the noise logger. The noise loggers can be used to obtain relative abundance estimates of various calling fauna. For great whales, provided one can correct for singing rates, the listening area of the noise logger (calculated from sound transmission modelling) and the whale transit time in the logger listening area, then these relative abundance estimates can be converted to estimates of total numbers of whales in the region through time.

The deployed noise logger data will be compared with visual marine fauna observations proposed to be made in the area and will be used in a regional context by comparing the deployed logger data with: 1) concurrent passive acoustic observatories set in the Perth Canyon and at the lower end of Geographe Bay (off Eagle Bay); and 2) visual observations of blue whales planned to be made in Geographe Bay. In this way the movements and timing of great whale passage through the area and the importance of the area to great whales can be placed in a regional context.

Supervisors

Assoc. Prof. R McCauley, Dr C Salgado and Mr C. Burton

References

  • Gavrilov, A., McCauley, R., Thomas, F., Klaka, K., Salgado-Kent, C., Perry, M., Duncan, A. (2009) Acoustic Observatories of the Australian Marine Observing System, Underwater Acoustic Measurements: Technologies & Results, 3rd International Conference and Exhibition, Nafplion, Greece, pp. 1245-1249, 21-26 June 2009. ISBN: 978-960-98883-0-1.
  • Cato, D., McCauley, R.D., Rogers, T., Noad, M. (2006) Passive Acoustics for Monitoring Marine Animals – Progress and Challenges, First Australasian Acoustical Societies’ Conference, Acoustics 2006: Noise of Progress, pp 453-461, Christchurch New Zealand, 20-22 November 2006. ISBN 978-0-909882-25-9. ISSN 1446-0998.
  • McCauley, R.D., Salgado Kent, C.P., Burton, C.L.K., Jenner, C. (2006) Blue Whale Calling in Australian Waters, The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Vol. 120, Issue 5, pt 2, pp 3266.

Abundance and migration patterns of marine mammal populations, studied by underwater acoustic observations

The proposed project aims to determine the correlation between abundance and migration patterns of marine mammals and large-scale long-term changes in the environmental parameters in Western and Southern Australia’s waters due to anthropogenic and natural impacts, including in particular global and regional climate changes. The environmental effect on the two known subspecies of blue whales ( Antarctic and pigmy) and humpback whales will be investigated.

An analysis of whale abundance will be carried out using 1) the historical data gathered by the Centre for Marine Science (CMST) of Curtin University in the Indian and Southern Oceans around Australia, using passive acoustic and visual observations, 2) the sea noise data collected from the underwater listening station deployed off Cape Leeuwin in Western Australia in 2001 as part of the International Monitoring System of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), and 3) the new data of passive acoustic observations of vocalising whales, which are currently collected from underwater acoustic observatories deployed on the Western and Southern Australia’s continental shelf as part of the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme (NCRIS).

The outcomes of the project will inform the decision making processes for national and regional planning of ocean resources, with particular impact on offshore oil and gas developments, defence operations, environmental sustainability and retention of marine biodiversity.

Supervisors

Assoc. Prof. R McCauley, Dr C Salgado

References

  • Gavrilov, A., McCauley, R., Thomas, F., Klaka, K., Salgado-Kent, C., Perry, M., Duncan, A. (2009) Acoustic Observatories of the Australian Marine Observing System, Underwater Acoustic Measurements: Technologies & Results, 3rd International Conference and Exhibition, Nafplion, Greece, pp. 1245-1249, 21-26 June 2009. ISBN: 978-960-98883-0-1.
  • Cato, D., McCauley, R.D., Rogers, T., Noad, M. (2006) Passive Acoustics for Monitoring Marine Animals – Progress and Challenges, First Australasian Acoustical Societies’ Conference, Acoustics 2006: Noise of Progress, pp 453-461, Christchurch New Zealand, 20-22 November 2006. ISBN 978-0-909882-25-9. ISSN 1446-0998.
  • McCauley, R.D., Salgado Kent, C.P., Burton, C.L.K., Jenner, C. (2006) Blue Whale Calling in Australian Waters, The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Vol. 120, Issue 5, pt 2, pp 3266.