SDRP has operates the Sarasota Bay Listening Network, a network of underwater passive acoustic listening stations in Sarasota Bay; each station includes a hydrophone that records sounds to flash memory cards and/or transmits data via cell phones. These stations allow us to explore the underwater acoustic environment of Sarasota Bay to better understand the ecological dynamics of the Bay and the behavior of its animals, including sound-producing fish, dolphins and manatees.
We created PALS in partnership with David Mann of Loggerhead Instruments, Mote Marine Laboratory, New College of Florida and local citizens who have allowed us to put stations at their docks. Eckerd College has joined us as well.
Because these instruments collect so much data — many terabytes each year — our partners at New College have developed an automated system of identifying bottlenose dolphin whistles. So far, we’ve identified nearly a quarter of a million distinct whistles, and, because of work done by our partners at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of St Andrews, Scotland, to develop a Sarasota Dolphin Whistle Database of the unique identifying sounds that each dolphin makes, we can even tell not just when dolphins are present near these stations, but which dolphins they are.
We’re always working to add new stations and improve our capabilities. In the summer of 2021, we upgraded half of our 10 Sarasota Bay listening stations to a more powerful version from Loggerhead Instruments called HaikuMarine, which runs a continuous neural network to detect dolphin whistles. The sounds detected are instantly uploaded to a website where we can listen in!
One of these stations is located at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Historic Spanish Point campus, and is paired with a Science and Environment Council Watershed Audio Tour stop about Sarasota Bay Dolphins and interpretive signage about sounds in the bay, which connects visitors to audio clips recorded at the site.
In 2023, we’re working to replace and upgrade stations damaged by Hurricane Ian.