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Saving WHALES FROM STRANDING

AND PROTECTING HUMANS FROM SHARK ATTACKS

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

 

“Today’s inventors are different, we have more information, technology and resources than ever before,” noted 9th-grade Veronica Lewis, inventor of NOMAD (Navigational Ocean Mammal Assistance Drone), which prevents marine mammal beachings. “A hundred years ago it was all about creating the first . . . the first lightbulb, the first car, the first telegraph. For me, inventing can also be about converging proven technologies in a new way to solve big problems.”

Navigational Ocean Mammal Assistance Drone

 

My idea for N.O.M.A.D came from concern over the sad and preventable deaths of thousands of Cetaceans (whale, dolphin, and porpoise) as a result of strandings in shallow water and beaches.

Every year, thousands of whales, dolphins and porpoises get into trouble on coastlines around the world. Unless those animals are responded to rapidly when they are stranded or trapped in shallow water, they will die.

 

 

After doing a lot of research and talking to Cetacean experts* from around the world and pulling together technology in a new and unique way, I developed an innovation that could save thousands of Cetaceans each year. The N.O.M.A.D. will not only assist whales stranded in shallow water, it could prevent thousands of whales from ever entering the dangerous, shallow waterways which lead to beaching.

 

What further inspired me was discovering how traumatic and unsuccessful rescue mission methods are today. Currently explosive are detonated behind whales to scare and encourage them to swim away. This rarely works because the trauma tends to paralyze them with fear and they will stay in the shallow water. Another tactic is human herding. This is the the most widely used technique, in which a large group of people will stand in the shallow water and “push” the whale back out to sea.  But this has been historically unsuccessful as the whales become frightened and unresponsive. Although there have been some success with this method, the problem is that there are not enough people readily available to make this an effective or reliable method. Through my research I discovered the scientists are puzzled as to what causes the sea creatures to put their lives at risk. Sonar, an increase in shipping activity, military testing have been suggested as causes,  but the scientific community just doesn’t know why whales strand themselves.

 

 My invention focuses on what we do know

  • Cetaceans communicate with species specific sounds

  • Whales respond very predictably to certain sounds

  • Whales also have a very advanced hearing ability, which they use for direct communication and echolocation. 

  • What whales hear leads them to change their behavior

  • Whales respond favorably to familiar sounds

  • There are very specific location globally that tend to create stranding risks for Cetaceans

 

 

It makes sense that we could use friendly and familiar sound to help lead Cetaceans away from areas where they are at risk of stranding or beaching.

 

  1. Explain how your invention works

My invention, the N.O.M.A.D. is the first aquatic drone that uses Cetacean/whale sounds to assist in the rescue of stranded marine mammals.   The N.O.M.A.D. works by helping Cetaceans to avoiding swimming into dangerous waterways and by allowing rescue teams to lead them out of shallow water. The N.O.M.A.D is an aquatic drone that will emit sounds with a submergible microphone and playback of relevant and specific to those Cetaceans that are in danger. Research and recordings already exist that are proven to elicit either beacon or aversion behavior. The N.O.M.A.D. now gives marine mammal rescue teams a way to deploy these sounds with targeted precision. The NOMAD uses an underwater speaker to play whale songs and sounds specific to those of stranded Cetaceans. These sounds act as a beacon to direct stranded Cetaceans out of shallow water.

 

 

The NOMAD is the first ever aquatic drone and can operated in 2 very distinct ways to assist in Whale herding

  • N.O.M.A.D. can maintain a fixed position to keep whales out of dangerous areas

  • N.O.M.A.D. can be methodically repositioned to “herd” whales out of shallow water

  • N.O.M.A.D.  travel out to sea to deploy useful sounds and collect data

  • N.O.M.A.D.  can be deployed in  exact locations

  • N.O.M.A.D.  can used to “herd” with their ability to change location though remote control navigation.

 

 

The N.O.M.A.D. utilizes the following technology in a brand new way by putting them together to prevent whale beaching

 

  • It utilizes trimaran boat design in an aquatic drone application

  • It uses electronic flipper type propulsion which does not have noise of a motor and replicates familiar patterns in the water

  • Global Positioning System (GPS) to guide it

  • Solar power  panels and or battery packs

  • Prerecorded & programmable audio playback of whale & other Cetacean communications

  • Waterproof speaker

  • Drone technology in an aquatic rescue scenario for marine mammals

  • Electro magnetic  magnets  to repel sharks

 

  1. Who will benefit from your invention

               Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises (Cetaceans)

 

For my initial experiments I would like to focus on Cetacean subspecies,  (Globicephala melas) ,

  • Pilot whales are more vocally developed because os the existence of vocal folds in the larynx of odontoceti (toothed whales).  

  • Pilot whales are highly social animals that live in close-knit family groups  and typically become stranded in large groups known as pods

 

Stranding is a phenomenon in which Cetaceans move themselves into water too shallow to swim out of. In some situations, Cetaceans such as Pilot whales become stranded in large groups known as pods.  No one knows for certain why whales become stranded, but precautionary measures must be put in place to help them.  With my invention, the N.O.M.A.D, we can greatly reduce Cetacean stranding, saving the lives of thousands of these sea creatures.

 

  • For my initial experiments I would like to focus on Cetacean subspecies,  (Globicephala melas) , Pilot whales, they are a species that is particularly vulnerable to beaching. “With pilot whales, an injury to just one of them could spell trouble for the entire pod. “Generally there are one or two individuals from that group that are in some kind of trouble, either sick, or dying, or sometimes having trouble giving birth,” Slooten says. “The social organization of pilot whales is so strong that when something like that happens, the rest of the group won’t leave. That’s why generally several dozens, sometimes a couple hundred of whales strand.”

  • Pilot whales are particularly at risk for group strandings, Spradlin said, because they are highly social animals that live in close-knit family groups, or pods. "Their need for group cohesion is very strong, so these animals stay together," said Spradlin. He added that scientists think a pod gets stranded after one animal first gets stuck, often an older or sick individual.

Additionally, I have discovered that Pilot whales are more vocally developed because of the existence of vocal folds in the larynx of odontoceti (toothed whales).   “that the pilot whale vocal repertoire is among the most complex for the mammalian species and the high structural variability, along with call repetitions and combinations, require a closer investigation to judge their importance for vocal communication.”It has been concluded in the article, Vocal repertoire of long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) in northern Norway, published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 141, 4289 (2017)

 

 

  1. Why do you think your invention is original and unique for this challenge

 

My invention the N.O.M.A.D is the first and only aquatic drone that is designed for Cetacean (whale)  rescue.  The NOMAD features innovations in:

  • drone technology

  • propulsion

  • boat design

  • solar energy

  • bio acoustics

  • whale behavior modification

  • sonar

 

It utilizes the convergence of existing technologies in a unique way to save marine mammal  lives. 

  • Unmanned drone technology allows the invention to stay positioned for use indefinitely and in all weather conditions.

  • The study of marine biology has made it possible for us to identify sounds that will impact the behavior of whales and other cetaceans. 

  • The sound deployment technology makes use of the ocean’s ability to carry sounds over great distances. 

  • Also, we are taking advantage of the incredible hearing of whales. 

 

The N.O.M.A.D. utilizes the following technology in a brand new way by putting them together to prevent whale beaching

  • It uses electronic flipper type propulsion which does not have noise of a motor and replicates familiar patterns in the water

  • Global Positioning System (GPS) to guide it

  • Solar power  panels and or battery packs

  • Prerecorded and programmable audio playback of whale and other Cetacean communications

  • Waterproof speaker

  • Drone technology in an aquatic rescue scenario for marine mammals

 

 

*List of Cetacean experts I consulted with during the creation of this invention:

 

Institute of Marine Mammals – Gulfport, Mississippi

Dr. Mystera Samelson, PHmd.

Project Jonah , Auckand, New Zealand

 

University of St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland

Dr. Peter Tyak, Prfoessor, Bio Acoustics

 

N.O.A.A. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Hawaii & Scotland

 

Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale Sancutary, National Whale Sanctuary

Dr. Mann, PhD. Baleen Whale Expert

Dr. Jim Darling, Ph.D.

 

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Woods Hole, MA

 

Oceanographic Institute, University of Connecticut