Students develop acoustic device to detect whales near offshore wind farm | 3/22/2019 | Staff
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URI engineering students deploy an acoustic device they created for detecting whale sounds near the Block Island Wind Farm. Credit: Luke Puk.

A group of six ocean engineering students at the University of Rhode Island has developed an acoustic device that successfully detects the sounds made by whales and other marine mammals in the vicinity of the Block Island Wind Farm. The invention was created for the students' senior capstone design class, a yearlong project that requires students to call upon all of the skills and knowledge they learned during their college careers.

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The students who developed the device are Drew Adams of Bel Air, Maryland, Jake Bonney of Barrington, Rhode Island, Garrett Connelly of Wakefield, Rhode Island, Max Fullmer of Virginia Beach, Virginia, Luke Puk of Garfield, New Jersey, and Brendan Read of Middletown, Rhode Island. URI Ocean Engineering Professor James Miller was the advisor.

The students call their device MARIMBA or Marine Mammal Monitoring at Block Island Using Acoustics.

Mammals - Hydrophone - Underwater - Sounds - Marine

"What we were trying to do was detect marine mammals acoustically, using a hydrophone underwater that listens for the sounds of marine mammals, then sends those sounds to a server we have on campus, and we can listen to them live or record them," said Puk.

It wasn't easy. The biggest challenge, the students said, was that they were working from a prototype created by another team of students a year ago, but this year's group had little understanding of the software and electronics the previous group used.

Anything - Year - Project - Connelly - Research

"We didn't know anything about how they did last year's project," said Connelly, "so we had to take it and figure out what they did. We had to research the software code they used and figure out why they coded it the way they did.

"Last year's system was also designed for use on the Narrow River, where...
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