National Geographic Online article on Ocean Noise

National Geographic Online has published a short article with an informative graphic on ocean noise pollution.

Incentive for the article came (from among other places) the work of Christopher Clark from Cornell. His research team has been developing a passive acoustics monitoring program in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary which is revealing a lot of information about the interaction of endangered Right whales who spend time in the sanctuary – which also happens to fall under the path of very busy shipping lanes in and out of Boston Harbor.

The main gist of the article as well as Chris Clark’s research is that increasing anthropogenic noise is masking biologically significant sounds.

The National Geographic illustration includes man-made sources of sound as well as natural sources – lightening, wind, and rain. Other loud natural sources that can also be added to that list would include earthquakes and calving icebergs – as well as the biological sounds of whales, dolphins, and fish.

But unlike the constant drone, hash, and whine of shipping noises, natural sounds are either intermittent and occasional (earthquakes and lightning) or set into a bio-acoustic “niche” – meaning an acoustical frequency band that is utilized by certain animals which does not overlap the acoustical niche of other animals. In this way healthy sound habitats can be “noisy” and still not cause acoustical interference for biological communication channels (think of a noisy jungle with insects, birds, and mammals all making their various sounds).

It is encouraging to see ocean noise issues becoming “mainstream” in publications such as National Geographic. NatGeo editors also seem to have ocean noise on their sonar; OCR was recently featured in one of their articles last April.

This bodes well for all of us because a more informed public lends support and incentive to find solutions to the growing problem.

Thanks for your interest!