CAA: Biomimetic Monitoring of Singing Humpback Whales
Eduardo Mercado Principal Investigator
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Despite intensive studies of singing whales, much about their behavior is still unknown, including: (1) how recipients use songs to locate and assess singers; (2) why humpback whales change their songs over time; and (3) why humpback whales sing. The proposed research combines recording studies in the field with computer simulations to achieve several scientific goals. First, researchers will identify what features of songs whales may use to locate singers, and to evaluate songs, by measuring how different habitats impact song transmission, and by locating singers using a recording buoy with "ears" that mimic those of a humpback whale. Second, they will identify common features of humpback whale songs across populations by comparing recordings of singing whales from Puerto Rico and Hawaii using automated computer analyses. Finally, they will measure echoes generated by different sound components within songs to determine which components produce the strongest echoes, and to investigate how whales may use such echoes. Proposed educational activities will cultivate excitement for learning and discovery in students by exposing them to innovative humpback whale research, and will engage them in activities that will enhance their ability to use computers and field research methods to investigate sensory processes and animal behavior. The specific educational objectives are to: (1) increase diversity by providing students with new opportunities to participate in technically sophisticated field research; (2) invigorate public interest in science by developing a publicly-accessible website that broadcasts high-fidelity audio recordings of singing whales as they are being collected; (3) train new undergraduate and graduate scientists in the fields of computational modeling, bioacoustics, and animal behavior; (4) develop inexpensive underwater audio recording kits that can be distributed to local high schools in Puerto Rico.