News / Science & Technology

    Fish 'Cell Phones' Track Marine Life

    Technology is sounding board for migrating species from Alaska to Mexico

    Researchers tag a white sturgeon on the Fraser River in British Columbia, Canada.
    Researchers tag a white sturgeon on the Fraser River in British Columbia, Canada.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Rosanne Skirble

    A unique array of underwater listening devices stretches 3,000 kilometers along the west coast of North America to track marine life along the continental shelf.

    "It's like giving fish a cell phone," says Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking (POST) executive director Jim Bolger, whose network is part of a global project called the Census of Marine Life, an on-going effort to assess the diversity and abundance of life in the world's oceans.

    Tiny transmitters

    POST has strategically placed over 450 hydrophones on the sea floor.

    Fish tagged with tiny transmitters emit a special signal when they pass by one of the hydrophone receivers. Rows of these small receivers form listening lines perpendicular to the shore, at intervals of about 800 meters. Bolger says the lines, which can run 50 kilometers in length, create a grid that captures fish movement across the ocean never before available.

    POST hopes to have listening lines deployed from shore to the edge of the continental shelf from the Bering Sea in Alaska south to Mexico.
    POST hopes to have listening lines deployed from shore to the edge of the continental shelf from the Bering Sea in Alaska south to Mexico.

    "If an animal passes through one line, we hear it, and if it passes through the next line we know it's continuing and which direction it's moving in and about how fast. If it doesn't show up at the next line of receivers, either it's taken up residency in between or maybe it's died."  

    Over the last six years POST has followed some 16,000 tagged marine animals, including 18 different species from salmon the size of a hotdog to great white sharks.

    Bolger says a couple of times each year, POST collects the underwater data from each acoustic receiver and relays it to a ship on the surface.

    Better protection for endangered species

    POST recently published the first in a series of studies from its telemetry data with some unexpected findings. The endangered California sturgeon, for example, was tracked migrating north over vast distances in the winter, giving wildlife managers clues to better protect it.

    Prince William Sound Science Center's Scott Pegau deploys an acoustic receiver for a new POST line in Port Gravina, Alaska.
    Prince William Sound Science Center's Scott Pegau deploys an acoustic receiver for a new POST line in Port Gravina, Alaska.

    Other research challenges the theory that more salmon die in dammed waterways than wild rivers. The paper compares the salmon life cycle in the heavily dammed Columbia River with that of the Fraser River in Southern British Columbia that has no dams. Bolger says the POST data showed that the survival was the same in both groups.

    "And so, what does that really mean?  I think the jury is still out on that. But the fact that there is comparable survival really makes you wonder as to what are the factors that are affecting the health of these populations in both major rivers."

    Bolger says the POST array can serve as a baseline for movement of various species as ocean conditions change over time in response to climate change. "We can start to really see how the animals that live in these oceans are adapting to climate changes or not adapting. And we can do a better job of sustaining the life that is here."

    All POST data and research derived from that data become part of the public record and are available for free online. Bolger says the project opens a new window on the sea and invites anyone interested in exploring the view to support the project by purchasing a radio tag and following a tagged fish on the POST Census of Marine Life website.

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.