Maureen Vo is a volunteer for the Great Bear LIVE project.
Sounds of the Ocean
You can research everything there is to know about the area and Google the breathtaking images, but nothing can truly prepare you for the incredible connection and admiration you will feel once you arrive in a place like the Great Bear Rainforest.
A passion for conservation and a desire to protect British Columbia’s coastal environment brought me to Pacific Wild headquarters in the heart of the GBR. My goal was to learn as much as I could about their work, the research, and the non-intrusive technology they are using to study wildlife.
One particular technology I was curious to learn about was their system of hydrophones, which have been set up at several sites along the central coast of B.C. The hydrophones allow for live acoustic monitoring year-round in order to better understand how a variety of marine mammal species utilize the waters along the coast of the GBR.
Diana, the resident conservation biologist and systems guru, already introduced me to how the systems work and how the hydrophone spectrographs show contrasting pink spikes or ripples against the blue background when sounds have been detected. I was excited to get started as I sat there in the floating lab and started my first acoustic monitoring session.
The hydrophones are recorded in 15-minute intervals, and you go through each session to search for any interesting sounds. For the most part, the ocean is pretty quiet with the occasional sound of random things bumping or brushing up against the hydrophones. As I opened a new recording, I noticed there was a large pink area indicating a lot of sound activity. My excitement was building as I thought about high-pitched dolphin squeals or glorious whale songs. As I listened intently, I could hear the noise getting louder and louder, but this was no whale. My hopes quickly faded as I realized this was simply a boat passing by. Patience is a virtue, and I realized it may take a while before activity might occur.
I eventually came upon a session with sounds from the phenomenon of humpback bubble net feeding, which was incredible to hear and made all the sifting through silence that much more rewarding.