Scientists use 'EAR' device to hear undersea creatures

Dr. Marc Lammers
Dr. Marc Lammers

By Sharie Shima - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - From scales to tails, we know what sea creatures look like.

But how many of us can actually say, we've heard the sounds they make?

These are the sounds of the sea.  Fish are able to make sounds because of an air pocket in their stomachs. There is also the delicate dance of the shrimp clicking their claws as they move along a reef.

Whales and dolphins also add to this symphony of sound. All of this is recorded with a device called an EAR.

"The reason it's called EARs is because the instrument we work with is called an Ecological Acoustic Recorder, or an EAR," said Dr. Marc Lammers of the UH Institute of Marine Biology.

Lammers says the ocean is a very loud place, we just don't hear well under water. But the ear does.

"The idea is to look at long term changes. Changes that are a result of climate change and the result of degradation of certain types of environments," said Lammers.

Fifty EAR devices are deployed across the world including Hawaii and the northwestern Hawaiian islands. They sit at depths varying from forty to one thousand feet.

"It's great because every time we deploy one of these instruments in a new location, we learn something new, we learn something we didn't know before, we hear sounds that we hadn't heard before."

Researchers collect the recorders several times each year.

"One exciting result is that we found that humpback whales are using the northwestern Hawaiian islands much in the same way they're using the main Hawaiian islands. This was something until recently, wasn't thought to be the case."

Lammers says this means the whale population is growing and that they are moving into other areas.