From Porpoise Detectors to ‘Hawkeyes’, How Know-how Empowers Ecology

From Porpoise Detectors to ‘Hawkeyes’, How Know-how Empowers Ecology

On a heat winter afternoon as I unpacked my gear onto a small wood boat, one in all my curious assistants approached me asking what was the crimson torch that I used to be holding. “It is not a torch,” I mentioned rapidly, checking if my survey sheet was in place. “It’s a depth meter… umm… Depth dekhar jonno… (to take a look at the depth).”

Maybe overwhelmed by my sense of urgency he moved again and let me proceed my work. Quickly, I jumped onto the boat, and was on my first survey of the River Ganga, at Farakka in West Bengal. Farakka, a small city in central Bengal, sits in addition to NH34, bustling with heavy motion of site visitors and other people all day lengthy. It’s maybe the final place a layman would think about a wildlife researcher to be in. But there I used to be, on a motored wood boat in the midst of the huge Ganga, continually dipping my depth meter within the water, recording its studying and searching for Ganges river dolphins on the identical time.

‘What are you writing?’ requested the curious man once more as our boat – barely large enough for 5 folks – rocked on crashing waves.

“Depth. Goirahi.” I instructed him.

“Hmm… goirahi ki kore deikhen?” he requested and instantly I had realised the subtleties of talking a non-native language. He wished to know the way I used to be ‘trying’ on the depth.

I slowly defined to him that it’s not gentle that the gadget makes use of, however sound. Sound – too excessive in frequency for us to listen to – is emitted by one finish of the depth meter and its reflection from the underside of the river is acquired by an acoustic sensor on the identical finish. Because the pace of sound in water is thought, the time elapsed between emitting this sound and sensing its reflection is translated into the gap travelled or depth – goirahi.

A Hawkeye handheld depth meter used to measure the water degree
Picture Credit score: Imran Samad


He appeared confused by the main points, however kept away from asking any following questions.

As a scholar of curiosity, I like its different disciples. Subsequently, on our journey forward, I took to explaining him one thing just a little easier – a handheld GPS gadget. A tool becoming in my palm, housing a boring colored 2.2-inch TFT display alongside a tiny joystick to navigate its menu.

It’s a pretty frequent gadget utilized by all types of individuals everywhere in the world to file their positions, navigate landscapes and a lot extra. It really works similar to the GPS on a smartphone utilized by functions like Google Maps, however is designed to work in harsher and extra rugged environments, additionally providing loads of battery backup. After I had defined it to my assistant, he would usually take a look at the odometer at show on it, and scream atop the engine noise in regards to the distance that we had travelled to date. His mates on the rear finish of the boat had been equally glad to obtain the information. Maybe it was a brand new approach of trying on the river — that they’d grown up round — that crammed them with fascination.

On the survey’s finish, as we stood on the dock discussing future plans, my assistants had been calm and glad. They by now might higher visualise the river in a 3rd dimension, fairly precisely.

Just a few days after some consecutive surveys, I had develop into good mates with my assistants. I instructed them to be prepared on the Ghaat on a chilly December morning; I used to be bringing the CPOD with me.
Surveys are essential to know the place dolphins are at a time limit, however it’s unattainable to know the way they transfer all all through the day. Do they keep in shut proximity to at least one spot? Or do they transfer rather a lot? To know this, one must sit on a nonetheless boat for the entire day, and file dolphins as they floor to breathe. This after all can be a tiring process! However that is precisely what the CPOD does, with minimal problems and biases.

CPOD VLIZ dolphin detector

A CPOD deployed underwater
Picture Credit score: VLIZ


A Cetacean – POrpoise Detector data the parameters of the vocal sign of a dolphin.
Simply as we converse in sentences made up of phrases, river dolphins talk in lengthy trains made up of clicks, which have sure properties like frequency, SPL (loudness) and so forth. A CPOD data these parameters together with time. Subsequently, in impact it turns into like a watchman who’s at all times on alert for dolphins. Since it’s a passive logger, it doesn’t have an effect on the animals.

Identical to this, a lot of what researchers do is easy conceptually. It’s the translation of their ideas into actuality that’s advanced. How precisely do you use a watchman underwater? The truth is, the standard of analysis one does is contingent on the standard of this translation, the gear employed and the strategies used. Rising expertise and regular entry to it’s progressively remodeling the way in which we take a look at our environment. 

The truth is, there are various fascinating units that researchers use to watch and perceive the world. One such gadget that excited my assistants greater than ever was the Chart-plotter. It really works on the identical precept because the depth meter and is used to ‘see’ underwater, similar to how a paediatrician ‘sees’ and assesses a foetus inside a womb. With this, river qualities like its form, presence of fish and so forth could be higher understood.

Bettering applied sciences are closely empowering analysis, but one should at all times keep in mind that any gadget used is just nearly as good as its consumer. With correct logic and motivation, you’ll find new methods to take a look at the identical previous issues. So at all times keep curious; your observations might sometime change the world.


Imran Samad is an engineer turned wildlife biologist who’s fascinated by the character of nature. He’s presently enrolled within the M.Sc. in Wildlife Biology and Conservation at NCBS, Bangalore, the place he’s finding out cetaceans. He additionally loves to put in writing poetry on his weblog.

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