UNH Ocean Seminar

Echo Sounding Atop the Wave of Oceanography’s Robot Revolution

Dr. Kelly Benoit-Bird
Senior Scientist & Research Chair


Friday, May. 6, 2022, 3:10pm
Chase 105

A proliferation of uncrewed surface and underwater platforms are providing new ways to obtain acoustic data in the ocean, offering increased spatial and temporal coverage and access to unexplored areas. There are challenges to effectively exploiting robotic platforms for fisheries acoustics including difficulties in integrating relatively large, high power draw scientific echosounders into these platforms and the need to provide alternative evidence for target identification in the absence of trawling vessels. Recent experiments that integrated a constellation of robotic platforms and a cabled observatory to describe the abundance, distribution, and behavior of pelagic animals illustrate both the opportunities and challenges. Echosounders were employed from a variety of uncrewed platforms, letting us examine the tradeoffs of active acoustic sensing from each platform. Echosounder sampling was complemented by targeted environmental DNA sampling and quantitative video transects from autonomous underwater vehicles to provide information on target taxa and size classes. Together, these data revealed new details on the daily vertical reorganization of life in the pelagic. Creatively exploiting the strengths of these new platforms rather than attempting to (poorly) replicate ship-based sampling is key to leveraging the robot revolution in ocean sciences.


Kelly Benoit-Bird is a Senior Scientist and the Research Chair at MBARI, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. In her research, she uses sound to explore how animals make their living in pelagic marine ecosystems from the surface to the deep sea. She received a B.S. in Aquatic Ecology from Brown University and a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa before a short stint as a post-doctoral fellow at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. Kelly was a Professor of Oceanography at Oregon State University before moving to MBARI in 2016. She is the recipient of the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the Medwin Prize in Acoustical Oceanography, and a MacArthur Fellowship (commonly known as 'the Genius Award'). She is a Distinguished Lecturer in IEEE's Oceanic Engineering Society and a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America.