Automated detection and localization of bowhead whale sounds in the presence of seismic airgun surveys

J Acoust Soc Am. 2012 May;131(5):3726-47. doi: 10.1121/1.3699247.


An automated procedure has been developed for detecting and localizing frequency-modulated bowhead whale sounds in the presence of seismic airgun surveys. The procedure was applied to four years of data, collected from over 30 directional autonomous recording packages deployed over a 280 km span of continental shelf in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea. The procedure has six sequential stages that begin by extracting 25-element feature vectors from spectrograms of potential call candidates. Two cascaded neural networks then classify some feature vectors as bowhead calls, and the procedure then matches calls between recorders to triangulate locations. To train the networks, manual analysts flagged 219 471 bowhead call examples from 2008 and 2009. Manual analyses were also used to identify 1.17 million transient signals that were not whale calls. The network output thresholds were adjusted to reject 20% of whale calls in the training data. Validation runs using 2007 and 2010 data found that the procedure missed 30%-40% of manually detected calls. Furthermore, 20%-40% of the sounds flagged as calls are not present in the manual analyses; however, these extra detections incorporate legitimate whale calls overlooked by human analysts. Both manual and automated methods produce similar spatial and temporal call distributions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Automation
  • Bowhead Whale / physiology*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Noise
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sound Spectrography
  • Transducers
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*