Slocum gliders are very powerful tools for research and monitoring. These robots (or, more specifically, ‘autonomous underwater vehicles’) can swim around the ocean for weeks to months at a time in any weather, collecting reams of data at a fraction of the cost of a research vessel. These qualities have made the Slocum glider the workhorse of our lab at Dalhousie. We, as part of the WHaLE project, have been working with OTN and MEOPAR since 2014 to use our collective glider fleet to monitor for baleen whale species in Atlantic Canada. Each of our gliders is deployed with at least 1) a CTD to measure the physical properties (salinity, temperature, and depth) of the water, and 2) a DMON-LFDCS hydrophone system to monitor and report the sounds of baleen whales in near real-time.
Conservation is a major goal of all these deployments. The results from the acoustic monitoring allow us to dynamically react to whale detections in near real-time. The whale detections are currently delivered to regulators to inform management decisions, and we’re working hard to also distribute them to fishers, vessel operators, and others on the water so they may take actions to avoid harming these at-risk species.
These glider missions also (presumably) contain a lot of information about whale ecology. The broad goal of this project is to combine the physical and biological information recorded over the course of each deployment to better understand how each monitored species (right, fin, sei, and humpback whales) interact with their ocean environments.