Bioacoustics for Reef Biodiversity

In honor of the upcoming  #WorldOceansDay  ~ this Friday, June 8th.… I thought I’d share some newly acquired knowledge…. Stay curious!

Coral reefs are hugely important ocean ecosystems that deserve our admiration and protection.  The ridiculous diversity of marine life that can be observed by just patiently maintaining neutral buoyancy in the same spot for a :45 minute dive is jaw dropping.

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A few species I captured in Grand Cayman.

My niece, Katie, graduated from the University of Puget Sound with a degree in Biology. She then spent several years working as a conservation biologist in the Samoan Islands. Is that work?

western-samoa-map

Beyond the sea… Katie’s passion includes music.  A classically trained musician (piano, cello, etc. at your age), she has creatively combined her two loves: the ocean and music into hauntingly beautiful electronic compositions under her stage name, Hydrah.  Her musical art embraces bioacoustics as she weaves sounds from the coral reefs into her digital sound tracks.

Bioacoustics is a scientific field that combines biology and sound.  Our human ancestors “studied” bioacoustics for survival.  It was used for hunting prey or avoiding predators. More modernly, understanding echolocation or identifying bird songs and the howling of wolf packs might come to mind as bioacoustics being used to help us improve our understanding of the natural world.

bioacoustics

Katie introduced me to an exciting, emerging field of research currently swirling around bioacoustics as it relates to protecting our endangered coral reefs.  Who knew this existed? Not me!  This might be an area that my sea-loving scientific students should consider for their futures… and our planet’s.

Scientists are learning that they can “listen” to coral reefs to identify and quantify the diversity of marine life living there. Using highly sensitive recorders, bioacoustic marine scientists can study the sound vibrations made by the various living organisms on the reef.  This is a non-invasive and possibly more efficient and accurate way of measuring the biodiversity of marine life on a coral reef than current methods of visually sampling and counting each organism.  Biodiversity is essential for the survival of unique ecosystems like kelp forests and coral reefs.  The diversity of life is what keeps food webs in balance.

Biacoustics could do more than just allow us to effectively analyze reef problems, bioacoustics could SAVE our reefs!  The greatest promise lies in the opportunity to record and playback these living sounds on coral reefs that have been bleached or otherwise damaged as a way of attracting larval fish and corals that can repopulate the ecosystem.   Here is a hope-filled post from a young scientist/blogger with direct experience in this budding field of bioacoustics as it relates to coral reef conservation…Reef Rhythms

Check out Katie’s music on YouTube that borrows sounds from a healthy and unhealthy coral reef.    Hydrah: Siren EP

Here you can compare the bioacoustic sounds for yourself…    Reef Sounds

And… if coral reefs inspire you…don’t miss this special opportunity to see the highly acclaimed documentary, Chasing Coral.  The Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) has a one-night-only screening of the film at their Wortham Giant Screen Theatre on Wednesday, June 6th at 6pm.  Emma Hickerson, Research Coordinator for NOAA’s Flower Garden Banks and Marine Sanctuary, will be there to provide commentary about the film and to answer questions.  Ask her about opportunities to use bioacoustics to restore damaged reefs.  How could bioacoustics help our own Texas Gulf Flower Gardens?   Ticket link.
Chasing Coral Trailer

Chasing Coral

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