The ULPGC launches a new monitoring system in underwater vehicles


Cetaceans sighted in Canary waters.

Cetaceans sighted in Canary waters.
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A group of researchers from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria has launched a passive acoustic monitoring system pioneer in Europe based on autonomous underwater vehicles.

These devices, called gliders or gliders, will sail the coast of the eastern islands of the Archipelago to collect data on the underwater acoustic environment of the area and its relationship with the presence of cetaceans regionally and then in Macaronesia.

With this initiative called MacPAM and within the framework of the CanBIO Project, which brings together different investigations focused on the effects of climate change, the team is preparing to use a pioneering state-of-the-art audio recording system, which allows obtaining information on the species of cetaceans present in the area, almost in real time, during the campaigns, their promoters explain in a press release.

“These innovations represent a great advance in this field of study. Previously, gliders only had sound recording technology that only stores data at predetermined times, for the duration of deployment, and can only be accessed in the lab after recovering the vehicle at the end of a campaign, which can last for several weeks or months ”, explains Jorge Cabrera, researcher at the ULPGC and head of the MacPAM project.

However, this new system allows the acoustic signal to be analyzed in situ and issue detection notices for selected species or alerts on the intensity of acoustic noise, at times when the glider communicates on the surface via satellite.

According to its promoters, this advance opens up interesting possibilities when it comes to conditioning navigation, based on the evidence that can be collected during the development of the campaign.

This novelty presents a great advantage, since when the glider detects cetaceans in its range of action, you can decide at the same time to modify their trajectory, monitor these marine animals or even carry out a more detailed study of the area.

With the technology that MacPAM uses in its research, the CanBIO project It will be able to carry out incursions into the Canarian waters throughout 2021 and expand its area of ​​action to all of Macaronesia from 2022.

Acoustic environment maps

The main purpose of the campaigns is to obtain maps of the acoustic environment, marine noise and the presence of cetaceans in the waters of the Canary Islands and in extensive areas of Macaronesia.

MacPAM is a subproject of CanBIO coordinated by the ULPGC through the Comprehensive Marine Technology Service (SITMA), led by the researcher Jorge Cabrera, which is responsible for executing the campaigns with gliders.

The research work of this service is carried out within the Taliarte Marine Technological Science Park, located in Gran Canaria.

This subproject is coordinated with another called BuoyPAM, led by the researcher Fernando Rosa from the University of La Laguna, which will develop tools for the analysis of the collected sound.

Both teams carry out their research on passive acoustic monitoring of the sound environment and the detection of biological activity.

Through the static buoys of BuoyPAM and gliders of MacPAM, the data obtained will be crossed to determine the state of the underwater acoustic environment of the Canary Islands and Macaronesia.

MacPAM will allow the development of a low-cost cetacean census technology that will allow a more precise monitoring of large regions such as Macaronesia.

In the future, this may be vital to determine the status of critically endangered species such as the Atlantic humpback dolphin, endemic to the west coast of Africa and that the Loro Parque Fundación will begin to protect with a conservation project in Senegal from 2021.

The promoters of this project indicate that in this way, Loro Parque Fundación, in collaboration with the Canarian universities, will turn the islands into international benchmarks in research on climate change and its effects on the marine environment of the Canary Islands and Macaronesia.

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