SciFest National Final 2023

Stand 2

An Investigation Using Sound Analysis on the Impact of Ambient Ship Noise on Normal Communication and Foraging Behaviour of the Common Dolphin (Delphinus delphis)

Student Amy Roche
School St Joseph's Secondary School, Convent Lane, Rush, Co. Dublin
Teacher Kevin Delahunty
Venue TU Dublin Blanchardstown

Cetaceans, a mammalian group of animals including whales, dolphins, and porpoises, exhibit charismatic qualities, drawing attention for study. Echolocation, a vital method for animals like dolphins, aids in locating distant objects through emitted and reflected sound waves. In Ireland, common dolphins, prevalent in Dublin Port, face a rising threat of noise disturbance from the port's bustling economic activities, including fishing, shipping, dredging, and industry exploration. The main concern is the masking effect caused by anthropogenic noise, wherein ship-generated sounds interfere with cetaceans' communication, risking missed opportunities for foraging or communication. Research highlights the highest recorded noise levels during ship departures at 121 decibels, comparable to a military jet takeoff.

I investigated the impact of propeller design on underwater noise generation. Using sound files of echolocating common dolphins, a water tank and a variety of 3D printer propeller designs, I tested the masking effect of ambient propeller noise. SPARKvue and Audacity software was used to complete the analysis, with a standard 3D printed propeller as a control. Research has indicated that there is potential for altered ship propeller designs to mitigate noise disturbance. I have looked at methods to reduce the masking effect, which could benefit common dolphins and other echolocating cetaceans, through different propeller designs. The results indicate that innovative propeller designs can in fact reduce the masking effect on echolocating cetaceans helping, to mitigate against increasing anthropogenic noise disturbance in the marine environment.

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SciFest National Final 2023
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