Equipment used to 'eavesdrop' on fish lost at sea during experiment
Xavier Mouy's device, built from a PVC frame with four hydrophones and a camera attached, disappeared after he set it up in Roberts Bay, near Sidney. (Twitter)
Published Friday, February 8, 2019 4:29PM PST
Last Updated Friday, February 8, 2019 5:21PM PST
Have you ever wondered if fish could talk? If they could talk, what would they say?
Xavier Mouy, a University of Victoria PhD student, is dedicating his academic career to the study of fish not exactly talking, but communicating with sounds.
“They make typically grunty sounds, and they make that most of the time for reproduction, for attracting mates. So very low frequency and very grunty sounds,” said Mouy.
Beyond that, very little is known about the sounds fish make.
Which brings us to the mysterious disappearance of thousands of dollars worth of scientific equipment.
Mouy built a PVC frame, about a metre tall, with four hydrophones and a camera attached.
He dropped it in the water just of Roberts Bay, near Sidney, anchoring it and attaching orange surface buoys to easily locate it upon his return.
The camera was supposed to record fish and their sounds for one week, after which Mouy expected to pull it up and find a treasure trove of information on a large scale.
“So I can start to build up a catalog of fish sounds so we can know which species of fish does which sounds,” he said.
Instead when he returned to the site, the equipment wasn't there.
“It is very frustrating. It’s mostly because that represents a lot of money in equipment, so I will have to find the money to purchase new equipment or even rebuild some of those, like the camera is something I designed myself,” said Mouy.
Altogether the gear is worth close to $10,000, leaving him in a fine kettle of fish.
Mouy explained if it isn't found, his PhD will be delayed while he rebuilds what he can, and tries to find grant money to buy the rest.
He has made notices, asking people if they have seen his gear, but a fellow scientist, Mika McKinnon, took it one step further with a humorous tweet to cast a wider net.
Dear southwest coastal BC:— Mika McKinnon (@mikamckinnon) February 6, 2019
Escapee science instrument adrift from Sidney last week, still at large (& presumably eavesdropping on fish).
Please attempt capture & ping @XavierMouy if it crosses your bow or beach.#cansci #overlyhonestmethods pic.twitter.com/pZgL6ixiSc
There are two obvious possibilities to explain what happened to the equipment.
Either something fishy is going on and someone pulled the contraption up, took the camera and deep-sixed the rest, or it somehow got loose and is adrift with the currents.
Mouy is really hoping it is the latter, and that is why he is making a public plea for gear lost at sea.
“I’m looking for people to look around and when they see orange floats and something that resembles my equipment that they call me, chances are pretty slim but it’s worth a shot,” he said.
If it is found, it would make him happy as a clam.