From Porpoise Detectors to ‘Hawkeyes’, How Technology Empowers Ecology

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On a heat winter afternoon as I unpacked my gear onto a small picket boat, one in all my curious assistants approached me asking what was the purple torch that I used to be holding. “It’s not a torch,” I stated rapidly, checking if my survey sheet was in place. “It is a depth meter… umm… Depth dekhar jonno… (to look at the depth).”

Perhaps overwhelmed by my sense of urgency he moved again and let me proceed my work. Soon, I jumped onto the boat, and was on my first survey of the River Ganga, at Farakka in West Bengal. Farakka, a small city in central Bengal, sits in addition to NH34, bustling with heavy motion of visitors and other people all day lengthy. It is maybe the final place a layman would think about a wildlife researcher to be in. Yet there I used to be, on a motored picket boat in the course of the huge Ganga, continuously dipping my depth meter within the water, recording its studying and on the lookout for Ganges river dolphins on the identical time.

‘What are you writing?’ requested the curious man once more as our boat – barely large enough for 5 individuals – rocked on crashing waves.

“Depth. Goirahi.” I advised him.

“Hmm… goirahi ki kore deikhen?” he requested and instantly I had realised the subtleties of talking a non-native language. He needed to know the way I used to be ‘wanting’ on the depth.

I slowly defined to him that it isn’t mild that the machine makes use of, however sound. Sound – too excessive in frequency for us to listen to – is emitted by one finish of the depth meter and its reflection from the underside of the river is obtained by an acoustic sensor on the identical finish. Since the pace of sound in water is thought, the time elapsed between emitting this sound and sensing its reflection is translated into the gap travelled or depth – goirahi.

A Hawkeye handheld depth meter used to measure the water stage
Photo Credit: Imran Samad

 

He regarded confused by the main points, however kept away from asking any following questions.

As a pupil of curiosity, I like its different disciples. Therefore, on our journey forward, I took to explaining him one thing a bit less complicated – a handheld GPS machine. A tool becoming in my palm, housing a uninteresting colored 2.2-inch TFT display alongside a tiny joystick to navigate its menu.

It is a reasonably frequent machine utilized by all types of individuals everywhere in the world to report their positions, navigate landscapes and a lot extra. It works identical to the GPS on a smartphone utilized by purposes like Google Maps, however is designed to work in harsher and extra rugged environments, additionally providing loads of battery backup. After I had defined it to my assistant, he would typically take a look at the odometer at show on it, and scream atop the engine noise in regards to the distance that we had travelled up to now. His associates on the rear finish of the boat had been equally pleased to obtain the information. Perhaps it was a brand new manner of wanting on the river — that that they had grown up round — that crammed them with fascination.

At the survey’s finish, as we stood on the dock discussing future plans, my assistants had been calm and pleased. They by now may higher visualise the river in a 3rd dimension, fairly precisely.

Just a few days after some consecutive surveys, I had develop into good associates with my assistants. I advised them to be prepared on the Ghaat on a chilly December morning; I used to be bringing the CPOD with me.
Surveys are necessary to know the place dolphins are at a time limit, however it’s unimaginable to know the way they transfer all all through the day. Do they keep in shut proximity to 1 spot? Or do they transfer rather a lot? To know this, one must sit on a nonetheless boat for the entire day, and report dolphins as they floor to breathe. This after all could be a tiring activity! But that is precisely what the CPOD does, with minimal issues and biases.

CPOD VLIZ dolphin detector

A CPOD deployed underwater
Photo Credit: VLIZ

 

A Cetacean – POrpoise Detector data the parameters of the vocal sign of a dolphin.
Just as we communicate in sentences made up of phrases, river dolphins talk in lengthy trains made up of clicks, which have sure properties like frequency, SPL (loudness) and so forth. A CPOD data these parameters together with time. Therefore, in impact it turns into like a watchman who’s at all times on alert for dolphins. Since it’s a passive logger, it doesn’t have an effect on the animals.

Just like this, a lot of what researchers do is straightforward conceptually. It is the interpretation of their ideas into actuality that’s advanced. How precisely do you use a watchman underwater? In reality, the standard of analysis one does is contingent on the standard of this translation, the gear employed and the strategies used. Growing know-how and regular entry to it’s regularly remodeling the way in which we take a look at our environment. 

In reality, there are lots of fascinating units that researchers use to watch and perceive the world. One such machine that excited my assistants greater than ever was the Chart-plotter. It works on the identical precept because the depth meter and is used to ‘see’ underwater, identical to how a paediatrician ‘sees’ and assesses a foetus inside a womb. With this, river qualities like its form, presence of fish and so forth may be higher understood.

Improving applied sciences are closely empowering analysis, but one should at all times keep in mind that any gadget used is just nearly as good as its person. With correct logic and motivation, you’ll find new methods to have a look at the identical outdated issues. So at all times keep curious; your observations could sometime change the world.

 

Imran Samad is an engineer turned wildlife biologist who’s fascinated by the character of nature. He is at present enrolled within the M.Sc. in Wildlife Biology and Conservation at NCBS, Bangalore, the place he’s finding out cetaceans. He additionally loves to put in writing poetry on his blog.


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