MERCURY – Listening to whales and connecting students

The MERCURY project is a new research initiative that is building a network of hydrophones to listen to the sounds of whales, dolphins and other marine mammals in British Columbia.  The network we are building will have small, inexpensive and easily deployable hydrophones and will have data centers located in schools both in urban areas but also in remote regions, and will be both an educational as well as a scientific endeavour, teaching students about whales and computers.  It builds on the legacy of the decades of work done by Dr. Paul Spong and Helena Symonds, the founders of OrcaLab, a research station on Hanson Island, a small island near the northern tip of Vancouver Island.  The researchers in MERCURY have previously developed The Orchive, a website that makes available to the public a huge archive of over 20,000 hours of orca vocalizations.  The MERCURY researchers are also involved with the VENUS and NEPTUNE projects, a networked installation of ocean observatories.  Unlike these massive projects, MERCURY aims to leverage the latest advances in wireless and hydrophone technology to quickly deploy a large network of small and inexpensive remote sensing stations in a bottom-up approach.

Steven Ness is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Victoria, studying sound with computers.  He is the developer of The Orchive website and is involved in many other aspects of studying sound with computers.  He is passionate about understanding the languages of whales.


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