In this dissertation an innovative technology to study whale sharks, Rhincodon typus is presented.
The Integrated Satellite and Acoustic Telemetry project (iSAT) combines underwater
acoustic telemetry, autonomous navigation and radio frequency communications into a standalone
system. The whale shark, a resident of the Saudi Arabian Red Sea, is the target of
the study. The technology presented is designed to help close current gaps in the knowledge of
whale shark biology; these are gaps that prohibit the design of optimal conservation strategies.
Unfortunately, the various existing tracking technologies each have limitations and are unable
to solve all the unanswered questions. Whale shark populations are increasingly threatened by
anthropogenic activities such as targeted and indirect fishing pressure, creating an urgent need
for better management practices.
This dissertation addresses the current state-of-the-art of relevant technologies, including
autonomous surface vehicles (ASVs), sensors for research in the ocean and remote monitoring
of wild fauna (biotelemetry). iSAT contains components of all of these technologies, but the
primary achievement of this dissertation is the development of iSAT’s Acoustic Tracking System
(ATS). Underwater, the most efficient way of transmitting energy through long distances is
sound. An electronic tag is attached to an animal and works as its acoustic identifier. iSAT’s
hydrophone array detects the presence and direction of the acoustic signal generated by the tag.
The expected performance, range, and capacity to tell the direction to the tag are explained and
compared to the actual measured values. The first operational iSAT ATS is demonstrated.
This work represents significant advancement towards a fully autonomous iSAT system. Developments
on the power electronics, navigation, renewable energy harvesting, and other modules
are included in this research. With the recent integration of digital acquisition systems, iSAT’s
capabilities were increased to minimize its size and allow it to communicate with other acoustic
systems. Future engineering works are still necessary to achieve a fully automated system, but
the current developments with the ATS have immediate applications.
|Date of Award||May 2014|
- Biological, Environmental Science and Engineering
|Supervisor||Michael Berumen (Supervisor)|
- Marine Acoustics