Characteristics of fin whale vocalizations recorded on instruments in the northeast Pacific Ocean
Weirathmueller, Maria Michelle Josephine
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This thesis focuses on fin whale vocalizations recorded on ocean bottom seismometers (OBSs) in the Northeast Pacific Ocean, using data collected between 2003 and 2013. OBSs are a valuable, and largely untapped resource for the passive acoustic monitoring of large baleen whales. This dissertation is divided into three parts, each of which uses the recordings of fin whale vocalizations to better understand their calling behaviors and distributions. The first study describes the development of a technique to extract source levels of fin whale vocalizations from OBS recordings. Source levels were estimated using data collected on a network of eight OBSs in the Northeast Pacific Ocean. The acoustic pressure levels measured at the instruments were adjusted for the propagation path between the calling whales and the instruments using the call location and estimating losses along the acoustic travel path. A total of 1241 calls were used to estimate an average source level of 189 +/-5.8 dB re 1uPa @ 1m. This variability is largely attributed to uncertainties in the horizontal and vertical position of the fin whale at the time of each call, and the effect of these uncertainties on subsequent calculations. The second study describes a semi-automated method for obtaining horizontal ranges to vocalizing fin whales using the timing and relative amplitude of multipath arrivals. A matched filter is used to detect fin whale calls and pick the relative times and amplitudes of multipath arrivals. Ray-based propagation models are used to predict multipath times and amplitudes as function of range. Because the direct and first multiple arrivals are not always observed, three hypotheses for the paths of the observed arrivals are considered; the solution is the hypothesis and range that optimizes the fit to the data. Ray-theoretical amplitudes are not accurate and solutions are improved by determining amplitudes from the observations using a bootstrap method. Data from ocean bottom seismometers at two locations are used to assess the method: one on the Juan de Fuca Ridge, a bathymetrically complex mid-ocean ridge environment, and the other at a flat sedimented location in the Cascadia Basin. At both sites, the method is reliable up to ~4 km range which is sufficient to enable estimates of call density. The third study explores spatial and temporal trends in fin whale calling patterns. The frequency and inter-pulse interval of fin whale 20 Hz vocalizations were observed over 10 years from 2003-2013 on bottom mounted hydrophones and OBSs in the northeast Pacific Ocean. The instrument locations extended from 40°N and 130°W to 125°W with water depths ranging from 1500-4000 m. The inter-pulse interval (IPI) of fin whale song sequences was observed to increase at a rate of 0.59 seconds/year over the decade of observation. During the same time period, peak frequency decreased at a rate of 0.16 Hz/year. Two primary call patterns were observed. During the earlier years, the more commonly observed pattern had a single frequency and single IPI. In later years, a doublet pattern emerged, with two dominant frequencies and two IPIs. Many call sequences in the intervening years appeared to represent a transitional state between the two patterns. The overall trend was consistent across the entire geographical span, although some regional differences exist.
- Oceanography