Underwater acoustics hold audience entranced

Dr Denise Risch captured this Minke Whale while investigating the development of acoustic methods as a tool for conservation.

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Michael Thompson
(NOAA/SBNMS) created this graphic showing how marine mammals are researched using acoustics.

A small audience was treated to a fascinating talk at February’s Argyll and Lochaber Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) meeting at SAMS – ‘Sounds of the Minke Whale’, presented by Denise Risch.

A marine mammal ecologist at the Dunstaffnage-based research centre, Dr Risch is studying ‘underwater sounds and aquatic soundscapes’. At the recent SWT meeting, she spoke about her research and the application of
‘passive acoustic monitoring’ to investigate the use of sound by whales and the development of acoustic methods to study distribution and diversity as a tool for conservation.

The captivated audience heard the differing sounds made by the various whale species – one species sang a high-pitched and melancholy song with an almost human touch, while another pumped out a rhythmic beat which would have impressed the drummer of a modern rock band.

More worrying, however, was the recorded sound of the propeller of just
one single tanker, drawing the listeners’ attention to the possibly unrecognised fact that, in this modern day, marine life is subjected to severe noise all the time.

The next lecture will take place on Thursday March 19 at the Scottish
Association for Marine Science, Dunstaffnage, at 6.45 for 7pm. This month’s talk promises to be an extremely interesting one on a very different theme.

Kate Holbrook’s subject is to be ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone?’ Kate is a woodlands adviser for Scottish Natural Heritage and was funded by the
Churchill Fellowships to study the impact of grazing on woodland ground flora.

All are welcome to join the local branch of the Scottish Wildlife Trust and enjoy the lecture, the chat and the home baking, and are encouraged to go along and give Kate a good audience.

There will be a small charge which will be used to support the conservation work of the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

Directions: take the Dunbeg turning off the A85 and 200m later bear right into Kirk Road, signposted to the marine laboratory; follow this road down to the lab. The car park is on the right, beyond the main building.