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New hydrophones will let UGA Aquarium visitors experience the fascinating world of underwater sounds

Imagine hearing the sounds the dolphins make as they glide through the water, or the mating call of the oyster toadfish.

Visitors to the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island will be able to experience the underwater sounds of coastal habitats with the help of three hydrophones, purchased with donations from Friends of the UGA Aquarium.

“We will be able to build upon existing teaching experiences by incorporating soundscapes into lecture, laboratory and field-based programs,” says Dodie Sanders, an educator at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, which runs the aquarium. “We envision capturing underwater sounds of fish, other organisms and anthropogenic noises from deep water habitats, to oyster reef communities, to tidal rivers and sounds to create learning experiences for teachers, students and the public.”

Soundscape ecology is the study of how sound impacts the behaviors of living organisms in a particular environment. The underwater recordings will allow educators to teach students how to identify different fish sounds, learn about fish behavior and why they might hear more marine life in some areas, like oyster reefs, which provide important habitat for fish and crustaceans.

“We will incorporate use of the hydrophones in existing Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant programs, like our invertebrate lab where students can listen to underwater sounds on the dock as they collect invertebrate samples for lab studies,” Sanders says. “We will also be able to use the instruments during our dolphin tours, fish labs, trawls and public programs like Skidaway Marine Science Day.”

Sanders and Todd Recicar, marine operations supervisor at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, tested the equipment and gathered preliminary recordings in Wassaw Sound. In one of their recordings, you can hear snapping shrimp and to the mating calls of oyster toadfish, both native species to the Georgia coast.

Listen to an underwater sound recording.

The recordings of underwater sounds will be instrumental in developing new onsite and online programming at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. Educators hope to eventually develop an exhibit at the UGA Aquarium using the hydrophones which would allow visitors to listen to real time sounds of fish, dolphins and invertebrates from the Skidaway River.

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