U of M scientists use underwater speakers to deter invasive carp - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

U of M scientists use underwater speakers to deter invasive carp

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GENOA, Wis.. (KTTC) -- You can't really put a price on the Mississippi river and the ways its used by so many people, but saving the wildlife of Minnesota's most popular waterway may come with the price tag of just $75,000 dollars. A

species of carp have been slowly making their way up north on the Mississippi River, threatening the natural species that call those waters home.

Now, a scientist at the University of Minnesota is trying a unique experiment to stop the invasive carp from disturbing our state's ecosystem by installing a speaker system underwater at Lock and Dam Number Eight. 

"Here we have the shed and it holds the amplifiers, sound systems, and transformers, that then plays through these wires that extend across the gates, through the lock, and to the five transducers," said Dr. Peter Sorensen of the University of Minnesota. 

He is the scientist behind this acoustic deterrent system; essentially, just annoying speakers that scare off fish that don't belong.

He's assisted by Dr. Dan Zielinski. "As soon as the gates open, that just tells this thing to start playing the sound file essentially," Zielinski said. 

This scientific DJ booth is cueing recordings of boat motors.

"It broadcasts sounds between 500 and 2,000 Hz which is within the hearing range of these fish, but outside the hearing range of native fish," said Dr. Sorensen. 

"When we play them in the lab, these sounds, they jump and swim away."

The sounds will be heard by invasive carp for about 600 feet away from the lock, hopefully keeping them from being sucked in by passing boats and swimming north.

"Every time we open the gates, we run the risk of an invasive animal of some kind swimming through there," Dr. Sorensen said. 

A team put the system into place last week, behind the wooden boards of the lock.

Dr. Sorenson says this project has more than a 50 percent chance of working.

Dr. Sorensen said, "I think it's got a pretty good shot. In the lab, we're able to repel 90 percent of these fish."

Checking the system components, Dr. Zielinski described how he can keep track of the system from Minneapolis. 

"It'll send me information remotely about how many times it was operated, what the average usage was," he said. 

It could be five to 10 years to really gauge if this project is working.

"If it works, it could be the best thing I've ever done. If it doesn't work, I guess we've learned something," said Dr. Sorensen.

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