The project

This project will address one of the fundamental questions in biology: how species navigate in a feature-less landscape.

Despite advances in understanding how animals navigate, there is no complete consensus. In particular, how seabirds are able to navigate across the open ocean is not fully understood as there are few static features for them to use to orient themselves. Recent evidence suggests that pigeons adjust their behavior in response to inaudible low-frequency sound waves, or infrasound. Here we propose to test the hypothesis that seabirds may also use infrasound to navigate across the ocean.

During this project, we will:

  • Combine infrasound data from a network of 60 international atmospheric infrasound and hydro-acoustic monitoring stations that detect signals from around the globe with a database of over 15,000 seabird movement tracks
  • Simulate soundscapes, maps that individual seabirds potentially use in movement decisions. This involves expertise in geophysical data processing, acoustic source modelling and propagation modelling.
  • Use an innovative movement framework grounded in landscape ecology
  • Develop novel biologging devices, which can detect sound and meteorological parameters
  • Interspecific comparisons will assess the importance of infrasound for seabird navigation
  • Examine phenotypical and phylogenetic differences,
  • Complete assessment of the physiology, behavior and physics underpinning the use of infrasound in navigation

hfsp_20130225

A simulated ‘infrasoundscape’ from ocean waves, locations of a wandering albatross on 25 February 2013 and sites of CTBTO atmospheric infrasound and hydroacoustics facilities