Navigation Links
Listening for ocean spills and their ecological effects

November 16, 2010 -- Scientists who study acoustics (the "science of sound") have over the years developed a variety of techniques to probe the hidden depths of oceans. This week, many of these acoustic researchers will come together to discuss how these technologies were used to monitor April's Deepwater Horizon oil spill, to present new data on the gusher's ecological impacts, and to highlight new techniques under development that could improve our ability to detect oil in ocean water.

This special session will take place on November 17, 2010 at the 2nd Pan-American/Iberian Meeting on Acoustics, a major conference on the science and technology of acoustics held in Cancun, Mexico.

Some of these researchers will be presenting original data on the spill itself and its environmental impact.

Thomas Weber and colleagues at the University of New Hampshire in Durham and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Alaska Fisheries Science Center and Office of Coast Surveys will talk about Deepwater spill data collected using acoustic technologies originally developed for researching fisheries. For more information on this presentation, see their lay-language paper:

When the deep wellhead burst, Natalia Sidorovskaia of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette found herself in a unique position. As a member of the Littoral Acoustics Demonstration Center of the University of Southern Mississippi, she had been part of a team listening to the waters near this rig for 9 years -- using underwater microphones (hydrophone) to count sperm whales and beaked whales in the area.

"One of our sites was only 9 miles away from the Deepwater Horizon site, said Sidorovskaia.

Thanks to a rapid response award from the National Science Foundation and ship time donated by Greenpeace, Sidorovskaia and two mathematicians were able to revisit to these waters in September and spend a week collecting post-spill data.

By comparing this data to their pre-spill studies, the scientists hope to get an idea of whether the number of whales in the area has changed. They plan to present this new analysis in their talk on November 17.

"Our estimations agree with NOAA's -- about 1,655 sperm whales before the spill," said Sidorovskaia. "If we killed 3 animals in the gulf, it might affect the population in the growth."

Other researchers at the session will present new -- though largely unproven -- ideas for adapting technologies now used to study the structure of the ocean to detect the presence of oil in water as well.

At the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Michael Vera is exploring a technique commonly used to measure temperature gradients in the ocean (ocean-acoustic thermometry) which detects changes in the speed of a sound broadcast through water. Like a lens bending light, ocean water can distort sound in measurable ways that reveal various properties of the ocean.

Vera's computer models, which simulate a Deepwater Horizon-like stream of oil, indicate that the presence of concentrated crude oil should also reveal itself by changing the speed of sound propagation.

"The model suggests that the oil should be detectable near the wellhead," said Vera.

He is working to refine his model with a more realistic simulation of oil that also includes other materials such as methane. Vera has written a lay-language paper about this research, available here:

Mohsen Badiey of the University of Delaware in Newark, Boris Katsnelson of Voronezh University in Russia, and Jim Lynch of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts are investigating another technique used to study the ocean's three-dimensional structure.

Badiey and this team have spent years studying the structure of the ocean near the continental shelf using sound sources and receivers -- ships and moored points that broadcast sound and arrays of sensors in shallow waters that detect the refraction patterns of this sound. Their recent findings reveal that the three-dimensional nature of sound propagation can be used to detect the boundaries of fluids with different indexes of sound refraction.

"This is a rather unusual approach for ocean acoustics," said Lynch. "For almost a century, almost all work has been 2-D slices of sound."

Any kind of stratified front -- gradients of temperature or density -- can cause interferences and perturbations in this sound. Measurements of these interference patterns have recently revealed information about propagating internal waves on the New Jersey continental shelf.

Their preliminary theoretical calculations give them hope that this technique could be adapted to detect oil spills and other liquids in large-scale areas of water up to few thousand square kilometers on the oceanic shelf.


Contact: Jason Socrates Bardi
American Institute of Physics

Related biology news :

1. Johns Hopkins researchers detect sweet cacophony while listening to cellular cross-talk
2. Diatom genome helps explain success in trapping excess carbon in oceans
3. NOAA and NSF commission national study of ocean acidification
4. Coral reefs found growing in cold, deep ocean
5. Ecologists use oceanographic data to predict future climate change
6. Mysterious microbe may play important role in ocean ecology
7. Mysterious microbe plays important role in ocean ecology
8. Uncovering secrets of life in the ocean
9. Europe cores in EUROCORES: Ocean drilling in EuroMARC
10. Ocean growing more acidic faster than once thought
11. Ocean acidification from CO2 emissions will cause physiological impairment to jumbo squid
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/20/2015)... Connecticut , November 20, 2015 ... authentication company focused on the growing mobile commerce market ... CEO, Gino Pereira , was recently interviewed on ... interview will air on this weekend on Bloomberg ... Latin America . --> NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" ...
(Date:11/19/2015)... Calif. , Nov. 19, 2015  Based on ... Frost & Sullivan recognizes BIO-key with the 2015 Global ... Each year, Frost & Sullivan presents this award to ... line catering to the needs of the market it ... product line meets and expands on customer base demands, ...
(Date:11/19/2015)... YORK , Nov. 19, 2015  Although some ... market is dominated by a few companies, according to ... companies own 51% of the market share of the ... The World Market for Molecular Diagnostic s ... "The market is still controlled by one company ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... ... November 25, 2015 , ... A ... Black Aerospace Professionals (OPBAP) has been formalized with the signing of a Memorandum ... met with OPBAP leaders Capt. Karl Minter and Capt. Albert Glenn Tuesday, November ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... , Nov. 25, 2015 Orexigen® Therapeutics, Inc. ... participate in a fireside chat discussion at the Piper ... York . The discussion is scheduled for Wednesday, ... .  A replay will be available for ... Stilwell  , Julie NormartVP, Corporate Communications and Business ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... PORTLAND, Oregon , November 25, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... Deep Market Research Report is a professional and ... Genomics industry.      (Logo: ... basic overview of the industry including definitions, classifications, ... analysis is provided for the international markets including ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... ... November 25, 2015 , ... Jessica Richman and Zachary Apte, ... their initial angel funding process. Now, they are paying it forward to other ... stage investments in the microbiome space. In this, they join other successful ...
Breaking Biology Technology: