National Geographic : 2017 Dec
Based in Spain, Michel André oversees a project that monitors ocean noise. Its data inform policymak- ers on how to reduce noise impact on marine life. The ocean is never as silent as it seems. Natural noises from creatures, storms, and earthquakes, plus sound from thou- sands of ships as well as underwater drilling and dredging, can make quite a racket. For animals like whales and dolphins that use sound to navigate, the cacophony blunts that ability and can cause long-term physiological effects. A bioacoustician and a Rolex laureate, Michel André studies the sound of the oceans along shipping lanes, in popular ports, and in remote parts of the planet. “For several decades,” he says, “we’ve known that the effects of artificial noise produced by human activities are affect- ing the whole food chain.” André’s goal isn’t to eliminate the noise but to find ways to reduce its DEEP-SEA SOUND CHECK Michel André damage. His team developed a system called LIDO—Listening to the Deep Ocean Environment—to collect sound data from 22 underwater observatories and then compare it with migration pat- terns. Knowing where the animals are can allow ships to alter their course just enough to make a difference. PHOTOS, FROM TOP: SHAH SELBE; JOSEP MARIA ROVIROSA “ There has never been a more exciting time for conservation technology,” says Shah Selbe. Last year the former rocket scientist founded Conservify, a lab that focuses on using open-source technolo- gies—satellite data, sensors, drones, and apps—to better equip citizen scientists. The company is currently creating low-cost GPS trackers that can be hidden among shark fins to track the illegal trade. Another project: developing a long-dis- tance system that uses drones to monitor marine-protected areas. The lab has recently produced a drone that, as Selbe explains, takes “a real-time acoustic image of the area around it, like a bat, and can fly in tight spaces, such as caves.” It’s not rocket science—but it’s just as impressive. DEMOCRATIZING OCEAN SCIENCE Shah Selbe Shah Selbe (at left) and assistant Aaron Grimes use a balloon rigged with a camera to map California’s coastline.