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Mobile Autonomous Platforms for Passive-Acoustic Monitoring of High-frequency Cetaceans


Increased human activities in coastal and offshore waters, including renewable energy efforts such as the deployment and operation of wind, wave, and tidal energy converters, leads to potential negative impacts on marine ecosystems. Efficient monitoring of marine mammals in these areas using stationary passive-acoustic technologies is challenging. Many recreational and commercial activities (e.g., fishing) can hinder long-term operation of moored listening devices. Further, these waters are often utilized by cetaceans such as porpoise species which produce high-frequency echolocation clicks (peak frequency ~130 kHz) for navigation, communication, and prey detection. Because these ultrasonic signals are strongly absorbed during propagation, the acoustic detection range is limited to a few 100 m, and therefore the spatial coverage of stationary recorders is relatively limited. In contrast, mobile passive-acoustic platforms could potentially be used to survey areas of concern for high-frequency cetacean vocalizations and provide increased temporal coverage and spatial resolution. In a pilot study, a commercially available acoustic recorder featuring sampling rates of up to 384 kHz was customized and implemented on an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) and an unmanned surface vehicle (USV) and tested in the field. Preliminary results indicate that these systems (a) are effective at detecting the acoustic presence of high-frequency cetaceans such as porpoises, and (b) could be a valuable tool to monitor potential negative impacts of renewable energy and other anthropogenic disturbances in the marine environment.


  • Autonomous Underwater Vehicle
  • Acoustic Data
  • Harbor Porpoise
  • Acoustic Recorder
  • Unmanned Surface Vehicle

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The authors would like to thank the sailing club in Eckernfoerde, Germany and especially Hans-Juergen Wurm for their assistance with the Baltic Sea field trials. We furthermore thank Zen Kurokawa and Sorqan Chang-Gilhooly for their help implementing the high-frequency PAM system into the Seaglider. Also thanks to Niki Diogou, Amanda Holdman, Jay Peterson, Ken Serven and the crews of the R/V Pacific Storm and R/V Elakha for assisting in the deployment and recovery of the Seaglider. This project was partially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research, and NOAA. Co-author Selene Fregosi was supported by the U.S. Department of Defense through the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship (NDSEG) Program.

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Correspondence to Holger Klinck .

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Klinck, H. et al. (2016). Mobile Autonomous Platforms for Passive-Acoustic Monitoring of High-frequency Cetaceans. In: Friebe, A., Haug, F. (eds) Robotic Sailing 2015. WRSC/IRSC 2015. Springer, Cham.

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