Orcamap: an open-source mapping system for endangered orcas

Scott Veirs, Orcasound hydrophone network

CUGOS Fall Fling Oct 6, 2019, at UW in Seattle

Slides at: orcasound.net/talks


A growing need for real-time locations of endangered orcas

  1. Nov. 2018 Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW) Task Force recommendations
    • #17,21,26: go slow, silence depth sounders, & stay back near orcas
    • #20,22: fund & increase WDFW enforcement
    • #22-23: reduce ship & ferry noise near orcas
    • #24-25: reduce impacts of oil spills & Naval activities
  2. Spring 2019 WA State laws & Be Whale Wise guidance
  3. Geofences for researchers, enforcement, & management?
  4. Alerts for listening & sighting networks, and other educational activities?


An evolving tool for SRKW conservation (& source of orca t,x,y data)

The product of 15 years of citizen scientists listening for whales, Orcasound is now a cooperative hydrophone network and an innovative open-source hardware/software project.

Orcasound 2019-2020 map and membership

Cooperative of researchers, educators, & citizen scientists
  1. Orca Network
  2. Port Townsend Marine Science Center
  3. Beam Reach & Colorado College
  4. The Center for Whale Research
  5. The Whale Trail
  6. Oceans Initiative
  7. Orca Behavior Institute
  8. Whale Scout
  9. Deep Green Wilderness
  10. Friends of Lime Kiln Society (FOLKS)
  11. Cetacean Research Technology

Physical exhibits include: Seattle Aquarium; Port Townsend Marine Science Center; Langley Whale Center; Lime Kiln Visitor's Center (via FOLKS)

Past | Current | Planned (2020)

You can join Orcasound, too! Just e-sign the MOA and heed the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.

Orcasound software evolution

2017 challenge: Can we make it easy to listen, cloud-based, & scalable?

Free open-source software streams audio that "just works" on most (85% of) devices/browsers

Data stored within Amazon S3 buckets

Orcanode Github repository

Demonstration #1 (notice static maps!)

Make “listening for whales” interactive & inform real-time end-users

For free live-listening, browse to: live.orcasound.net

Orcasound 1.0 player published Nov. 1, 2018. Orcasound 2.0 is in beta-testing & will launch in fall, 2019.

Orcasound for tracking SRKWs

Cool tech: machine learning
Emerging orca AI (in real-time?):
  • Orcasound's archive of train/test data
  • Orcasound collaboration with UW and Microsoft with Dr. David Bain
  • Ocean Networks Canada workshops in November
  • Meridian's Keta (open-source)
  • ORCA-SPOT (trained on Orca Lab NRKW calls)
  • DFO+Google?

Orcasound as a partner in tracking SRKWs

Synergy of real-time sighting and listening networks
Most recent SRKW "hearing"
  • Hearings anticipated via sightings from Orca Network & many Puget Sound citizen scientists
  • 9 continuous days tracked in Sept, 2019!

The need for Orcamap

What (open-source) tool could georeference, vet, & visualize sightings (in near-real-time)?

Monthly map (Aug 2019) of marine mammal occurence from Orca Network.

Demonstration #2

Orcamap with collaborative vetting in Google sheets
Front end

Node.js site using Mapbox

Back end & vetting

Google spreadsheet

What's next for Orcamap?

Vision & invitation to contribute
Next steps for Orcamap:
  • Find more contributors! (or funding!)
  • Prioritized feature requests
  • Integrate vetted sightings with hearings & other t,x,y SRKW data
Orcamap resources
Orcamap development - Trello board


Orcasound for tracking SRKWs

Cool tech: new apps to help track marine life

Happy Whale

Upload a fluke photo; AI yields an ID!

Members of the PSEMP Marine Mammal Work Group, and organizational members of Orcasound, will continue to study, test, and develop these apps and other pioneering ways to share marine mammal location data within Washington and across the Salish Sea.

PSEMP Spatial Data Workshop, Oct. 31, Edmonds

Zones of bioacoustic impact from noise

  1. Injury (acoustic trauma, or stranding)
  2. Deafening (permanent or temporary threshold shift)
  3. Behavioral change (can also be due to physical proximity or interference)
  4. Masking of signals and cues
  5. Stress (e.g. from chronic noise)
  6. Audibility

Potential impacts of noise on southern resident killer whales (SRKWs)

  1. Injury (L112? J34?)
  2. Stranding (observed in other toothed whales, but not SRKWs)
  3. Deafening (permanent or temporary)
    • What explosives were used near SRKWs during the capture era, and previously?
    • Pile driving?
    • MFA sonar: (HMS Ottawa, 2012)
    • Naval detonations: (HMS Ottawa, 2012)
  4. Behavioral change (can also be due to physical proximity or interference)
  5. Masking of signals and cues (mostly by vessels)
  6. Stress (e.g. from chronic noise)
Right whale stress fell after 9/11 decreased ship noise in 2001 (Rolland et al., 2012)

Orcasound: as a partner in tracking SRKWs

Together we can detect & protect SRKW (with cool tech, like... Localization)

Mother-calf conversation!
SRKWs "speak up" in noise from nearby boats
(Holt, Noren, Veirs, Emmons & Veirs, 2009)
2008: ASA talk by V.Veirs

Orcasound for characterizing vessel noise

The bad news: Vessel noise can mask both calls & clicks

Frequencies of vessel noise overlap
with SRKW hearing and signals

Veirs, Veirs, & Wood (2016, PeerJ)

Typical ship:

Squeaky ship: