Snap, Crackle, Pop: Listening to Florida’s Reefs

Erica Staaterman deploys underwater recording equipment produced by the Paris Lab. Photo by Evan D’Alessandro

My dissertation research addresses the question: do larval fish use reef soundscapes for navigation? But what is a “reef soundscape”? Well, if you have ever been diving or snorkeling, you have probably noticed an incessant crackling sound. This sound is primarily produced by snapping shrimp, one of the noisiest residents on a coral reef. But the soundscape consists of a wide variety of sounds, such as the growls, grunts, and pops produced by animals such as fish, lobsters, and crabs, as well as abiotic sounds such as the breaking of waves.

The first goal of my dissertation research is to describe the temporal and spatial changes in reef soundscapes. Through the use of long-term passive acoustic recorders, I am currently collecting a one-year time series of acoustic data from two coral reefs in the Florida Keys. This will allow me to determine the patterns that occur on daily, monthly, and seasonal scales. These data will later be used for behavioral experiments on fish larvae.

Listen to one of Erica’s recordings here. The snapping sound is being produced by snapping shrimp, and the low-frequency growl is most likely fish.

Erica Staaterman
PhD Student, Applied Marine Physics & Marine Biology and Fisheries
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