An internship listening to cetaceans: Using passive acoustic monitoring to measure habitat use

Cassidy Beach spent her 2023 Hollings summer internship at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center using passive acoustic monitoring to explore dolphin and harbor porpoise habitat use at Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS). By detecting and analyzing the sounds of dolphin and harbor porpoises, work like Cassidy’s can help fill the gaps in knowledge about habitat use of these species in SBNMS. 

Cassidy is sitting at a work desk, looking at the camera. One of her hands rests on a laptop with data on it, while she uses her other hand to point to a computer monitor displaying multiple waveforms.

During her 2023 Hollings internship, Cassidy Beach validated dolphin echolocation clicks. (Image credit: Cassidy Beach)

Understanding the habitat use of dolphin and harbor porpoises is especially critical as offshore windfarm development begins along the U.S. East Coast, which raises concerns for cetaceans, such as these. Offshore wind development could lead to habitat loss and sound disturbances that may cause issues for these species.

The Hollings Program gave me the opportunity to explore my marine science interests and pursue a field I hadn’t heard about until applying! It was wonderful to dip my toes into ocean related research and it was interesting to compare my work to the knowledge and research experience I have had on the Great Lakes.

Cassidy Beach, Hollings scholar, class of 2022

Cassidy’s research contributes to knowledge that can pave the way for more effective protection efforts for these species along with other cetaceans as these new developments occur. Outside of her research, she enjoyed making connections with other Woods Hole scientists and exploring Cape Cod beaches. After her intended graduation at the University of Michigan in 2023, she plans to pursue more research and fieldwork opportunities to further explore her interests in marine science.

Cassidy poses, smiling with arms spread, in front of tan brick building with a large NOAA logo above the words "U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service."
Cassidy shows off the building where she completed her internship this summer. (Image credit: Allie Redford)
Cassidy Beach, 2022 Hollings scholar

Cassidy is a 2022 Hollings scholar majoring in Earth and Environmental Science at University of Michigan.