Multi-million dollar contract boosts UNH’s marine acoustics research

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Researcher Jennifer Miksis-Olds

Marine acoustician Jennifer Miksis-Olds, who is also associate director of research at UNH’s School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering, will lead the Atlantic Deepwater Ecosystem Observatory Network, or ADEON. Photograph by Colleen Mitchell, CCOM.

A new federal contract will help researchers like Jennifer Miksis-Olds eavesdrop on the ocean environment. The contract, worth up to $6.5 million, will support ongoing monitoring and research with state-of-the-art underwater acoustic technology.

“Sound is a big issue for marine life, because a lot of human use of the ocean produces sound,” says Miksis-Olds, associate director of research at UNH’s School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering (SMSOE) and a marine acoustician. “You can learn a lot from listening, like deriving wind speed, getting a sense of surface conditions, whether it’s rough or ice covered. You can also get an idea of the animals in an area by the vocalizations they make.”

“This acoustic research will help develop a deeper understanding of the effect of humans on ocean life and larger issues like climate change."

The study will focus on the mid- and south Atlantic Ocean, especially along the outer continental shelf and shelf break. Researchers will gather sound from a network of seven proposed deep-water observatory moorings from Virginia to Florida known as the Atlantic Deepwater Ecosystem Observatory Network (ADEON). Hydrophones, or underwater microphones, as well as echosounders mounted on the moorings, will allow researchers to listen to the ocean life in that area.

“This acoustic research will help develop a deeper understanding of patterns and trends in regional ocean soundscapes and processes, the effect of humans on ocean life, and larger issues like climate change, as well as debut the new acoustic expertise at UNH and establish the university as a leader in this area,” Miksis-Olds adds.

The multiple-year contract, of which two years are funded, came from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), on behalf of the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP). NOPP is an innovative collaboration of federal agencies that supports research partnerships among academia, government, industry and non-governmental organizations. The ADEON NOPP is comprised of a partnership between the U.S. Department of the Interior BOEM, Office of Naval Research, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“This is an exciting opportunity to partner with multiple federal agencies who are taking a proactive approach to understanding the offshore acoustic environment and a great addition to UNH's efforts at the forefront of underwater acoustic research,” says Larry Mayer, founding director of UNH’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping (CCOM) and director of the SMSOE.