Through participation on a variety of special panels and workshops, as well as from the outcome of applied research, the U.S. Navy's Low Frequency Active sonar program has engaged in a constructive development of an environmental impact policy. This has included original research into the potential impacts of low-frequency sonar on large whales, development of a risk assessment approach to monitoring and mitigation procedures (legally defined by decision of the 9th Circuit Court, San Francisco), and regulatory oversight by the National Marine Fisheries Service. This series of actions is unprecedented, and is being seen as a model for other countries when dealing with low-frequency sonar impacts on marine vertebrates. It has further raised the standards by which other human noise activities are being judged for impact on the marine environment. Partly through my scientific research on bowhead whales off Alaska, in collaboration with other scientists (NOAA, NSB-Alaska, University of Washington) we now know that this population is healthy and increasing. This research in combination with my involvement at the International Whaling Commission Scientific Committee (IWC-SC) meetings, where I serve as a U.S. delegate, have helped shape the standards by which the IWC makes decisions on human threats to wild populations of whales. The BRP employs over thirty full-time employees. Our hardware and software tools are being marketed to the broader communities, including researchers, U.S. Department of Defence and the oil and gas industry.\n\nA particularly high-impact project was started in late spring 2007. This involves the development and installation of ground breaking engineering-science technologies off the coast of New England, Georgia and Florida, funded by industry, government and private sources. The integrated technology consists of customized hardware, firmware and software to automatically and continuously detect the calls of highly endangered right whales in the Boston shipping lane, including near Brunswick, GA and Jacksonville, FL in 2008. This is installed on specialized moored buoys, designed in collaboration with Woods Hole Institution of Oceanography engineers. The data are housed on a website that in 2008 will be publicly available, another example of how our research and technologies serve the public good.\n\nWe have initiated a major project in collaboration with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to monitor for endangered marine mammals off the New York coast and in the New York harbor. The actual research will begin in 2008.
impact statement issue
A significant part of my academic career has been devoted to developing and applying engineered technologies to reach scientifically-based solutions to complex biological, environmental issues. This often includes working at the interface between industry, society, and science. Thus, I serve on a variety of committees and participate in a near continuous series of workshops exploring ways for decision makers (e.g., regulators, policy makers, politically elected officials) to reach responsible, scientifically-based decisions on living systems. Examples include my research: 1) off the North Slope of Alaska working with Eskimo communities and the oil & gas industry to evaluate the distribution and abundance of an endangered population of bowhead whales and the impacts of oil&gas exploration and development on wildlife and habitats(1979 - present); 2) throughout the world (e.g., U.S. west coast, Hawaii, U.S. east coast, Mexico, Caribbean, United Kingdom, Italy, France, Spain) conducting basic and applied research on the potential impacts of human activities (e.g., oil and gas exploration and production, Navy sonars, shipping, fishing) on populations of marine mammals, many of which are highly endangered or listed species. This issue has now gained the attention at the highest levels of defense, energy, and government in many countries around the world, and practical solutions are critically needed; 3) on the continental Unites States, but already spreading to the coastal marine environment, where the demand for renewable energy is driving a dramatic increase in wind energy. It has been unambiguously demonstrated that under certain circumstances wind utility towers (i.e., modern versions of windmills) kill bats and birds. Very little is known or understood about the causal factors, and much of this ignorance is simply due to the fact that very little is known about the distributions and abundances of these free-ranging animals.
impact statement response
Hardware tools include various forms of acoustic sensors such as microphones and hydrophone arrays, miniaturized radio frequency transmitting devices, and radio frequency receiving systems that utilize novel engineering approaches for tracking wild animals. Software tools include user-friendly applications for visualizing acoustic data and user-friendly programs for the automatic detection, measurement, classification, localization, and tracking of animals in three dimensions. We create and prototype novel, technical solutions to difficult environmental problems involving free-ranging animals, and from these we implement advanced solutions to help solve real-world problems facing society. For example, Army bases throughout the continental United States are home to many populations of endangered birds. We are working with the Army to implement acoustic monitoring systems at several bases (e.g., Fort Hood, Texas and Fort Drum, New York) to evaluate the distribution and abundance of endangered songbirds. To accomplish this challenging task we deploy autonomous recording units (ARUs) either as stationary on-the-ground units or on drifting balloons that float through areas infested with live ordinance. We have similar projects with both state and federal agencies, including departments of Fish and Game, Fish and Wildlife, the National Parks Service (e.g., Congaree National Park, South Carolina) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (e.g., Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary).
impact statement summary
We research, design, develop, and apply advanced software and hardware tools for monitoring terrestrial and marine wildlife, and use results to assess the potential impacts of human activities on the environment and endangered or threatened species.