Monday 19 March 2012

The NIMPA surveys - Part I

Around this time last year we were granted funds through the Nedbank Go Green Fund to purchase an acoustic array for surveys of the Namibian Islands Marine Protected Area, near Luderitz. This is basically a series of hydrophones (underwater microphones) which are towed behind a research vessel and can detect the naturally occurring sounds produced by whales and dolphins. Using acoustic methods in surveys of marine mammal distribution and relative abundance can greatly increase the chances of detection and optimise survey time and funds.  With the strong winds and swell experienced in southern Namibia, we felt like acoustic methods were the best way to study the area and were thrilled to get the chance to start this work.
We planned this research in collaboration with Dr JP Roux of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and soon after began working with Rene Swift (University of St Andrews Sea Mammal Research Unit, UK) to design the most appropriate hydrophone for our needs and budget. 

Through a SCOR visiting fellow grant, Rene was able to visit South African and Namibia to run training in the use of PAMGUARD software which we are using throughout these surveys.  Training in South Africa took place over two days (23-24th Feb) and involved participants from the Uni. Pretoria's Mammal Research Institute, SANBI and Namibian Dolphin Project and was a great success. SANBI (South African National Biodiversity Institute) are using PAMGUARD to study the distribution and abundance of frogs on Table Mountain, showing how useful acoustic methods can be to biologists.

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