This Case Study describes how researchers from the Patagonia Projects is collecting baseline data on the Patagonia region in southern Chile to create a snap shot of the area before outside threats alter it forever. The team is conducting visual observations combined with acoustic recordings using an Ocean Sonics icListen Smart Hydrophone outfitted with a Teledyne Reson sensor tip (RB9).
Patagonia region in southern Chile – an untouched
sanctuary for marine mammals
Winding, steep sided fjords peppered with islands comprise the Patagonia
region in southern Chile. It’s a sparsely populated area, largely untouched
by humans and industry. This nearly pristine environment has made the
region a sanctuary for many marine mammals, in particular the secretive and
endangered sei whale. Because of its untouched nature and rich biodiversity,
it is a researchers dream; however, its extreme isolation, which has allowed
this protection, has also prevented its methodical inquiry. Now, Patagonia
Projects, led by Keri Pashuk and Greg Landreth, are bringing teams of
researchers onboard their sailing vessel, Saoirse, to shine a scientific light on
the region. Using Ocean Sonics icListen Smart Hydrophones outfitted with
Teledyne Reson sensor tips, the team makes regular journeys down to Chile’s
southern coast to collect acoustic data on the many species that call the
Patagonia Projects - How environmental changes made
researchers out of two adventures
Keri and Greg are not researchers by trade, both could be characterized
as adventurers. Keri is a photographer and Greg, a writer. Their journey to
becoming facilitators of the Patagonia Projects research team began long
ago when they began sailing to Antarctica to climb untrodden and difficult
to reach mountains. Over the years, Keri and Greg began to notice the
degradation of many of the places they visited, seeing trash accumulating
in the oceans and changes in the environment. After witnessing so many
troubling changes, they chose to re-invent their goals, pledging their vessel,
Saoirse, as a platform for researchers to conduct query based environmental
research. They named the venture Patagonia Projects.
Creating a snap shot of the Patagonia area
In 2015, while on a benthic dive mission with Dr. Vreni Häussermann, Keri
and Greg discovered a number of beached whale carcasses. Since making the
initial discovery, many more dead whales have been found washed ashore
between Golfo Penas and Puerto Natales, where Patagonia Projects has
their home base. Through this grim discovery, Patagonia Projects began their
current ongoing project, to create a snap shot of the area before outside
threats from illegal fishing, unregulated aquaculture and climate change
alter the area forever.
Collecting baseline data with Hydrophone recordings
and visual observations
Patagonia Projects invite researchers with different specialized skills and
areas of research onboard Saoirse. The crew changes with researchers
schedules; however, they have found that acoustic recordings, combined with
visual observations are proving to be the most effective tools to illuminate
what cannot be seen in the depths of these remote channels. Patagonia
Projects tool of choice is an Ocean Sonics icListen Smart Hydrophone
outfitted with a Teledyne Reson sensor tip (RB9) to collect acoustic data. In
2018 the team began using novel deployment methods to collect baseline
data on the region.
Hydrophone deployment methods
The researchers knew they wanted to collect sound data in two ways:
opportunistically through strategic short-term deployments when sei whales
are actually sighted, to match the sounds with the individual animals; and
also via long-term soundscape recordings. To collect opportunistic data, Keri,
Greg and team used visual identification to determine if there were marine
mammals in the area. They then would launch an icListen on a float with
an Ocean Sonics Launch Box which provides a Wi-Fi link, making real-time
monitoring possible. Then, with the engine and a sonar equipment turned
off they could manoeuvre the vessel silently away from the hydrophone.
Through this new deployment method, the crew were able to make
recordings of the animals without interfering with them, especially if the
animals were feeding. Their drone recorded video simultaneously to make
identification of the recorded animals easier.
Deploying the long term recording system
Before the team set sail for home in December 2018, they deployed their
long term recording system. The system consisted of an Ocean Sonics
icListen RB9 digital hydrophone with internal logging capabilities and
Teledyne Reson omnidirectional sensor tip, connected to an Ocean Sonics
battery pack. The battery pack is embedded in a secure mooring with the
hydrophone attached directly to the top. The team installed the recorder at
the mouth of a small gulf, visited often by marine wildlife. As this area has
not been explored, and few acoustic recordings have been collected, the
researchers hoped that when they returned in three months time, they would
find a wealth of recordings.
Findings from the long term Recording
The long-term acoustic recorder was deployed mid-December of 2018 and
the team returned to collect the recorder in March. The data stored in the
hydrophone revealed a number of discoveries for the Patagonia Projects
team. Many vocalizing Sei whales can be heard throughout the data set,
proving that the area is a key feeding ground for the endangered whales to
visit. They estimate that they may have increased the record of verifiable sei
whale calls by a large margin. The team is still combing through the data to
identify other marine mammals in the recordings.
Securing marine protected areas in the Patagonia
The ultimate goal of these expeditions is to assist in identifying and securing
marine protected areas in the Patagonia region. Capturing baseline data is
the first, and most critical step in the process. Patagonia Projects are using
the data collected from their icListen hydrophones to demonstrate the need
to establish protected areas and ensure the safety and longevity of this rich
The Equipment used - Ocean Sonics RB9 smart
hydrophone, with a custom-made Teledyne RESON
The relationship between Ocean Sonics and Teledyne Reson began in 2010.
Ocean Sonics had launched their 3rd generation smart hydrophones and
needed reliable acoustic sensors with which to perform calibrations. This
task was only trusted to the Teledyne Reson TC4034 acoustic sensor. Ocean
Sonics enjoyed using the Teledyne Reson sensor so much, they chose to
digitize it, becoming the digital solution for Teledyne Reson hydrophones.
In 2015 Ocean Sonics launched their RB9 model smart hydrophone, a
completely digitized hydrophone with a custom-made Reson sensor, TC4059.
Through this Teledyne Reson sensor, Ocean Sonics was able to achieve low
drift, low self-noise, reliable smart hydrophones with 900m depth rating.
The collaboration between the two companies has been fruitful, pushing the
bounds of underwater acoustic innovation. As Ocean Sonics launches their
next generation Smart Hydrophones, beginning with the icListen Kayak,
they trust Teledyne Reson to provide top quality acoustic sensors, ensuring
simplicity, accuracy and reliability for users.