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October 27, 1997

Public workshop scheduled on Acoustic Thermometry of Ocean Climate project

By Robert Irion

Several years ago, a scientific project with the innocuous name of ATOC became something of a national cause célèbre. Researchers proposed using low-frequency sound waves to probe the temperature and other physical properties of the Pacific Ocean. Over the long term, such data could show whether global warming is indeed occurring, the scientists said.

However, protesters claimed the sounds would disturb, and perhaps even harm, marine mammals near the broadcasts. UCSC's involvement in part of the project and the proposed location of one of the sound transmitters--off Point Sur, south of Monterey--made Santa Cruz a focal point for several public and quite rancorous hearings.

After some delays, project organizers moved the proposed transmitter site farther offshore, west of Half Moon Bay. Protests died down, and sound broadcasts began late in 1995. Since then, researchers led by UCSC marine biologist Daniel Costa have scrutinized the behaviors of marine mammals near the transmitter--an unprecedented opportunity to study the role played by sounds in our increasingly noisy seas.

Now, some of ATOC's principal researchers will report publicly on their results to date. The daylong workshop and panel discussion is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, November 1, at lecture hall B206 in the Earth and Marine Sciences Building. The event is open to the general public, and admission is free.

The workshop will serve as a progress report for the marine mammal research program (MMRP) under ATOC, also known by its full name of Acoustic Thermometry of Ocean Climate. While the overall project is based at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Costa heads the MMRP for the California transmission site. A similar research program is under way at a second transmission site in Hawaii.

The meeting's format is designed to allow open discussion, public comment, and understanding of the potential effects of the ATOC signals on marine animals and fish. Speakers will include the following:

For more information, contact Susie Pike, ATOC project coordinator, at spike@ucsd.edu or (619) 534-8031.

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