Uncovering Courtship Behaviors and the Sounds of Giant Sea Bass

$195
1%
Raised toward our $10,000 Goal
5 Donors
25
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Project ends on June 30, at 11:59 PM PDT
Project Owners

Uncovering Courtship Behaviors and the Sounds of Giant Sea Bass

Hi I'm Elizabeth! Let me tell you about my project....

 

What Will The Money Be Used For?

The funding from CSUN Funder will be used for research for my Master's Thesis project: 

Verification of Giant Sea Bass (Stereolepis gigas) Spawning Through Auditory and Visual Observations 

 

These funds will pay for equipment, research site travel (boat fees), equipment maintenance, equipment upgrades, and minor miscellaneous expenses (i.e. concrete mix, PVC pipes, buckets, materials for hydrophone stand, etc.)

For a TLDR Synopsis scroll to bottom of page. 

 

Giant Sea Bass (Stereolepis gigas)

What Am I Researching?

I am aiming to document the spawning of Giant Sea Bass. From preliminary data gathered by my lab (Dr. Larry Allen's Fish Lab), we believe that Giants use courtship rituals or "dances" and sounds or "songs". We hypothesize that Giants exhibit these behaviors as necessary parts of their reproduction. 

 

What's A Giant Sea Bass?

The Giant Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas, is a critically endangered marine bony fish and the apex predator of the giant kelp forests. Giants can live over 70 yrs in age and they can grow over 500lbs, making them the largest bony fish off of the coast of California. Unfortunately, we don’t know much about these giant fish because of severe over fishing that began in the early 1900’s. This constant pressure led them to being placed as critically endangered on the ICUN’s Red list. Due to increasing efforts over the years, Giant Sea Bass populations are slowly on the rise. This has allowed us to uncover some of the secrets these giants still hide. 

My research focuses on two of the biggest mysteries of the Giant Sea Bass, their courtship behaviors and sound production. Nobody has ever described or documented these two behaviors before. Understanding these behaviors is crucial to helping conserve the species

Giant Sea Bass in kelp off of Catalina Island (Couffer 2019). 

Uncovering Giants' Behaviors; What We Think We Know.

Courtship: From previous research we have an idea of what Giant Sea Bass (GSB) courtship should look like. Giant Sea Bass courtship and spawning has been viewed and described in aquaria, but never in their natural environment. It has been hypothesized that Giants' spawn in pairs and release gametes after 3 steps (see figure 1 for reference below): 

When the female is ready, she will swim to a depth of 10–30 meters and have the male (1) follow her there. On the sea floor they will then begin to (2) circle each other up through the water column. During this time the male will (3) nudge the female’s abdomen area near the anal fin to signal readiness to release gametes. When the pair reaches the top of the water column it is hypothesized that they each release their gametes and swim back down to the bottom. These three steps can occur multiple times before they release gametes and broadcast spawn (Clark & Allen 2018).

Figure 1: Shows the possible Giant Sea Bass (GSB) courtship. This courting behaviors began in the afternoon while courtship rituals and spawning happen at dusk (1900h -2100h). The decreasing darkness represents the change in depth and time (Clark & Allen 2018) 

Sound Production: Our lab has found that Giants can produce a variety of sounds. Giant Sea Bass males are capable of producing sound that is very similar to that of a kick drum. Underwater Giant Sea Bass vocalizations sound like "Booms". These "Booms" produced at frequencies of 40 – 80 Hz (figure 2). During spawning season, it was observed that Giant Sea Bass booms are heard louder and more often the closer you are to their spawning sites. Leading us to believe that spawning and sound production are probably linked. In summer 2019 recordings from in-tank Giants identified new and unique sounds be made by Giants when they spawned.

Figure 2: Shows the visual representation of Giant Sea Bass (GSB) booms on a Spectrogram

What Equipment I Need, For Capturing Giants' Behaviors & Sounds.

How do I record these behaviors? With some really cool equipment!

Sound: In order to record Giants' booms, we need an underwater microphone called a hydrophone. The company Ocean Instruments makes the perfect hydrophone that I need - SoundTrap ST300 STD – Compact Recorder (see figure 3 below). Each hydrophone costs $2800. With the money raised with CSUN Funder we should be able to buy 3 of these microphones allowing us to capture more booms and possibly other new sounds. We have 1 existing hydrophone and with the addition of 3 more, I will be able to get far more coverage and sampling area. 

Why is This Important?: The the spawning areas of Giant Sea Bass are large, deep, and are near high human activity. These factors have made it difficult to sometimes identify Giants' vocalizations. With 2 microphones at each sample site I will be able far better coverage for sampling sounds than using just 1 hydrophone for 2 sites. With more hydrophones I'll be able to better calculate where booms and sounds are coming from. This will allow for better identification of mystery sounds due to the broader range of sampling. 

 

Courtship: While a majority of this funding will be used for acquiring hydrophones, the remaining $1,600 will be used on boat fees, SCUBA equipment and documenting courtship behaviors. Most of the remaining budget will be used for courtship. To record the underwater behaviors of Giant Sea Bass I will be using the BLUEROV2, ROV sub (Remote Operated Vehicle submersible). Using the leftover funds I will acquire longer communication tether and 2 more lights for my ROV named Bruce (see figure 3 below). With more tether Bruce will be able to travel farther without having to move our boat. And with better lights we can get a broader light display, with less disturbance, while we observe Giants.

Why is this Important?: With these upgrades it will be easier to capture Giant Sea Bass behaviors that haven't yet been captured in nature. Longer cables and better lights allow me to better follow Giants during their spawning. 

Figure 3: Left image, is how a Soundtrap or Hydrophone out in the field. This a very similar set up and model that I will be using. Right Image, an in action shot of a BLUEROV2 underwater. My ROV Bruce looks just like this model. 

Overall Your Donations Will Pay For:

  • Sound equipment: Hydrophone (Brand Soundtrap)

  • ROV parts: lights, tether, and indicators

  • SCUBA equipment: Lift bags to carry cement hydrophone stands to ocean bottom.

  • Travel fees: Help pay for gas for boat. 

This equipment will lead to us understanding Giant Sea Bass reproduction. 

 

TLDR (Too Long Didn't Read) Synopsis:

I am fundraising for equipment that is integral to my Master's Thesis project. Money from CSUN Funder will go to documenting undocumented reproductive behaviors of the critically endangered Giant Sea Bass. This money will be used to buy hydrophones, ROV parts, diving equipment, and boat fees. I will use Hydrophones to document Giants' sounds underwater and the BLUEROV2 to document courtship behaviors while Giants spawn (see figure 3). Understanding these behaviors is crucial to helping conserve Giant Sea Bass. 

 

For more info about my research click the links below:

  1. USC Wrigley Saturday at the Lab Talk
  2. Wrigley Institute Student Research Blog
  3. Talk at USC Wrigley Graduate Student Fellows Symposium, 2019
  4. Giant Sea Bass Behavior Videos

Special thank you to Mike Couffer providing several spectacular photos

 

Levels
Choose a giving level

$5

Helper

Every bit helps, thank you for donating

$10

Supporter

$10 really supports me, thank you!

$25

Backer - Thank You Video

Thank you for your $25. With this perk I plan to make a Thank you video from footage I have accumulated of Giant Sea Bass. By donating 25, your name will be in the video next to others* while I show off Giant Sea Bass footage. __________________________________________________________________ *Your name will be displayed along with the other Backers in the Thank You video. The amount of names, time on screen, and when the names are displayed on the video is TBD and depends on editing restrictions.

$50

Patron

Thank you for your $50. With this perk I plan to make a Thank you video from footage I have accumulated of Giant Sea Bass. By donating 50, your name will be in the video listed as a patron* separately from Backers. Your name will be represented longer and more prominently with less people sharing your screen time. __________________________________________________________________ *Your name will be displayed along with the other Patrons in the Thank You video. This means you will be on screen longer and with substantially less people on screen with you at a time. The amount of names, time on screen, and when the names are displayed on the video is TBD and depends on editing restrictions.

$100

Benefactor

With this perk I plan to make a Thank you video from footage I have accumulated while recording Giant Sea Bass behavior. By donating 100, your name will appear in the video solo* and separately from Backers and Patrons. Your name will be represented longer, more prominently, and by itself when on screen. There will be no one sharing your screen time*. __________________________________________________________________ *Your name will be displayed in the Thank You video. This means you will be on screen longer and your name will not share the screen with any other Benefactor, Patron, or Backer when it is displayed. The amount of time each Benefactor gets and when it will be displayed in the video will TBD and depends on editing restrictions.

$200

Acknowledgements

For every person who donates $200 or more they will go into my Acknowledgements section* every chance I get. I would love to show my gratitude for your donation when I can and if I am able to! You will also be listed as a Benefactor on my Thank You Video I will be creating. See Benefactor perk for more details. __________________________________________________________________ *This perk will be up to my discretion. Due to various constrictions I may be unable to list each donor. How acknowledgments are allowed to be listed can change based on the medium I present or publish in. How I present the acknowledgements will be up to my discretion. I will always do my darnedest to display these wonderful donors when permitted.

$1,000

Philanthropist - Letter

If there were 10 donations of 1,000 we would be set! With this perk I will send you a personalized Thank You Letter with your choice of it being a handwritten or electronic. With this letter you will also get a Giant Sea Bass sticker that I will have made and designed. __________________________________________________________________ Retroactive Added Perk/Levels: You will also be listed as a Benefactor on my Thank You Video I will be creating. See Benefactor perk for more details. You will also receive the Acknowledgement perk, see the Acknowledgement level for more details.

$2,800

Hydrophone

$2,800 is the amount of a hydrophone. A donation of this amount will help contribute to a major piece of equipment necessary for my project __________________________________________________________________ You will also receive...... Retroactive Perk/Levels: You will also be listed as a Benefactor on my Thank You Video I will be creating. See Benefactor perk for more details. You will also receive the Acknowledgement perk, see the Acknowledgement level for more details. The Thank You Letter and sticker perk, see Philanthropist level for more details.

$10,000

Giants of Giants

Wow, THANK YOU! If you are a donor at this level you will receive an email from asking if you would like to do a Q&A with me and talk more about my research. We can discuss this further with the donor if this level is met. __________________________________________________________________ Retroactive Perk/Levels: You will also be listed as a Benefactor on my Thank You Video I will be creating. See Benefactor perk for more details. You will also receive the Acknowledgement perk, see the Acknowledgement level for more details. The Thank You Letter and sticker perk, see Philanthropist level for more details.

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