The Sense of Silence Foundation and the Amazon

The conservation of the two endangered species of fresh water dolphins inhabiting the Mamirauá Reserve in the Amazon is challenged by several threats derived from human activities. Originally created by Márcio Ayres, a Rolex Awards Laureate, as a sustainable development Reserve covering 3,700 ha, Mamirauá is also the home of Projeto Boto from the INPA (Brazil) that has been studying several aspects of the boto and tucuxi biology for the last two decades. Advances in electronics, computers and numerical analysis have made the use of underwater acoustic technology accessible and affordable to relatively small budgets, but most importantly are permitting the remote monitoring, in real-time, of the presence of dolphins in any ocean, coastal and riverine habitats, thus contributing to their conservation. This unique technology will now support the research and education objectives of the Mamirauá Sustainable Development Institute by deploying a network of acoustic stations in the reserve, allowing the online monitoring – through the Internet – of the distribution of the two populations. This project represents an ambitious programme whose aim is to significantly improve our scientific knowledge of this unique ecosystem to help maintaining the Amazon biodiversity. These conservation actions will be coordinated by The Sense of Silence Foundation.

Revolutionizing the way we monitor biodiversity

To this day, there is no effective method for observing wildlife in tropical forests on a large scale. This is about to change.

The Sense of Silence Foundation joins forces with scientists from Brazil (the Mamirauá Sustainable Development Institute and the Federal University of Amazonas) and Australia (CSIRO) to develop the most sophisticated remote monitoring system ever used to track the diminishing biodiversity of the Amazon Forest under the Project Providence.

The high tech project will revolutionise the way biodiversity is monitored by creating a distributed, wireless sensor network throughout the jungle with autonomous nodes that continuously monitor wildlife under the canopy of the Amazon Forest.

The international team lead by the Mamirauá Institute, has been granted US$1,2 million by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, to carry out the first stage of this biodiversity monitoring project.

Dr Emiliano Esterci Ramalho, researcher and monitoring coordinator at the Mamirauá Institute in Brazil and Providence project leader, said the initial study area is at the southern end of the Mamirauá Reserve, between the Amazon and Japurá rivers.

“One of the major concerns for scientists worldwide is loss of biodiversity and the extinction of species. An accurate biodiversity assessment of an area such as the Amazon is essential to help combat the potential loss of wildlife,” Dr Ramalho said.

“We’ll be collecting data from acoustic sensors (for underwater creatures, as well as terrestrial animals such as birds, frogs and monkeys), visual images, environmental data (wind, temperature, humidity, air pressure), and even thermal images. The animals of key interest in the trial stages are a range of species including jaguars, monkeys, bats, birds, reptiles, river dolphins and fish,” he said.

Professor Michel André, founder and president of The Sense of Silence Foundation and director of the Laboratory of Applied Bioacoustics of the Technical University of Catalonia, BarcelonaTech, said monitoring wildlife with underwater passive acoustics will be a key technology in this project.

“New sensor developments and increased power in processing modules, originally developed for complex underwater ocean ecosystems, will be applied to the conservation of terrestrial and aquatic creatures for the first time in a large scale environment like the Amazon,” Professor André said.

“One of our biggest challenges is handling a live stream of data containing sounds and images from a tremendous number of known animals, and probably several unknown species, from the smallest bugs to jaguars. This unique biodiversity of sounds will be streamed online so the scientific community and the general public shall follow our progress in real-time from the comfort of their lounge room,” he said.

Watch the BBC World News film (4mn) on the technology behind TSOSF

Laboratory of Applied Bioacoustics (LAB) Will Map Ocean Noise on a Round-The-World Sailing Trip

The Laboratory of Applied Bioacoustics’s scientific programme 20,000 Sounds under the Sea will map noise pollution in oceans 20,000 Sounds under the Sea is a project of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya’s Laboratory of Applied Bioacoustics (LAB) that aims to study ocean sounds. The study will be carried out on board the Swiss ship Fleur de Passion, which will go around the world in four years with the aim of measuring human impact on oceans and contributing to the debate surrounding the role of humankind at sea. The Ocean Mapping Expedition, which was presented on March 12 in Geneva (Switzerland), and was launched on April 12. It is being organized in the framework of the 500th anniversary of Ferdinand Magellan’s voyage exploring new sea routes in the Pacific. More in

Mélanie Laurent

Redonner la parole a ceux que l’on a oubliés… Tendre l’oreille au plus profond des océans et écouter les plaintes, la peur et la détresse de ces mammifères marins bafoués … Plonger et se rendre compte qu’il n y a plus de silence nulle part… Certains hommes détruiront tout jusqu’à la dernière feuille, jusqu’au dernier souffle et d’autres passeront leur vie à essayer de rendre la parole a ceux qui n’en ont pas… Quand Michel m’a parlé de son projet, j’ai tout de suite été fascinée par la poésie qui se dégage de cette initiative hors norme… Aller écouter le mal que l’on fait sous l’eau… Plonger avec les baleines et entendre, comme elles, la folie des hommes. Je suis incroyablement fière et honorée d’être la marraine de ce projet unique, nécessaire et merveilleux… Nous vivons sur la terre et nous nous croyons chez nous partout, au lieu de la remercier chaque jour de bien vouloir nous accueillir… Cette planète bleue, si parfaite, composée d’océans à 70% et que l’homme, une fois de plus avec tant de mépris, a choisi un jour d’appeler Terre. Il est temps pour nous de réparer nos erreurs. De se jeter à l’eau… Et de chercher à tout prix un peu de silence… melanie-laurent-sign
To give back a voice to the ones that we have forgotten … to listen to the very depths of the ocean and hear the sounds of sorrow, fear and distress of these neglected marine mammals… To dive in, and realise that there is no silence anymore… for men will destroy everything up until the very last leaf, the very last breath, while others will spend their lives trying to give a voice back to those that don’t have one… When Michel told me about his project, I was immediately captivated by the beauty of this unique initiative… to listen to the ills that we are doing to our oceans…  to dive amongst the whales and hear what the folly of man has done. I am extremely proud and honoured to be godmother and an ambassador to this unique, essential and wonderful project. We live and behave here on earth as though every part of it belongs to us, instead of being eternally thankful that it has welcomed us amongst it… this blue planet, originally so pristine, comprised of 70% oceans, and yet, again with contempt, we chose to call it Earth. It is time to repair our mistakes. To plunge into the water… and look for even the slightest bit of remaining silence… melanie-laurent-sign












































Michel André

President, The Sense of Silence Foundation

The underwater marine environment is filled with natural sounds, but anthropogenic (man-made) sound sources are increasingly contributing to the general noise budget of the oceans. The extent to which excessive noise in the sea impacts marine life is a topic of considerable concern to the scientific community, environmental groups, and the general public. Noises produced by human activities can cause physical, physiological, and behavioural effects in marine fauna (including mammals, reptiles, fish, and invertebrates); these effects can be diverse, depending on the spatial proximity of the organism to the sound source. These impacts can result in a reduction in the abundance of fish species, changes in cetacean behaviour and migration routes, and a range of physical injuries in both marine vertebrates and invertebrates.
While regulation is progressing – underwater noise is now officially listed as source of pollution – to limit its effects on the marine habitat, and the offshore industry is slowly starting to adopt mitigation measures, will noise, like other forms of pollution, affect the entire web of ocean life?
Long-term solutions are needed and immediate mitigation actions must be implemented to control noise impacts in areas where operations at sea are to take place (eg. seismic surveys, construction, operation of windmills, naval maneuvers). Making the necessary improvements requires scientific knowledge and a strong political resolve. Furthermore, given the global extent of the noise proliferation problem, it must ultimately be addressed on an international scale.
A complex issue such as undersea noise pollution cannot be resolved quickly. Yet now is the time when important progress is possible, before the problem of increasing noise pollution becomes intractable and its impacts irreversible.
However, noise effects on Nature are not only challenging ocean conservation. It is a global problem that requires a global solution.
After more than 20 years of research, having founded the Laboratory of Applied Bioacoustics (LAB), a research laboratory at the Technical University of Catalonia (BarcelonaTech, UPC, Spain) to study the effects of noise on the marine environment, as well as a spinoff company,, to accompany the effort of ocean users to mitigate the impact of their activities, I am now taking a definitive step forward.
The Sense of Silence Foundation is the third and ultimate threefold objective of a lifetime project aimed at providing an environmentally responsible solution to the worldwide noise issue.
Created in the deep-ocean ( and awarded by the Rolex Awards for Enterprise in 2002 (, this technology is now mature to expand from the floated rainforest to extreme polar conditions, facing the challenge of giving back a balance to Nature through the analysis of its sounds.
The Sense of Silence Foundation listens to Nature, forwarding its stream of knowledge to science and society by deploying passive acoustics sensors in areas where wild fauna conservation is threatened, to live monitor its behaviour and take conservation measures when necessary. Through the technology developed by the Laboratory of Applied Bioacoustics (LAB), which anticipated the future broad use of acoustic data at large spatial and temporal scales through its international network of acoustic stations (, live streams of sounds converge to dedicated servers where an automated analysis identifies the sources involved, displays the data on the internet and alerts scientists and regulators of the presence of threats to Nature.
While the science behind The Sense of Silence Foundation is continuously developed by the LAB, and its services to ocean users is covered by its spinoff,, The Sense of Silence Foundation exclusively concentrates its effort on wild life conservation. Its funding comes from donations and its board of trustees is responsible of identifying areas where to deploy The Sense of Silence ears to provide Nature with benevolent protective tools.
In silence.





White-Beaked Dolphins

(Lagenorhynchus albirostris)

The white-beaked dolphin lives in the Arctic Ocean and, as most other dolphin species it uses a great variety of whistles when socializing. Some of the whistles they produce are outside the human audibility range.

Bowhead Whales

(Balaena mysticetus)

Bowhead whales are found in five separate populations in the Arctic Ocean and produce a wide variety of vocalizations, ranging from moans at a constant frequency to calls made up of a series of pulses varying in intensity, frequency, duration, and interpulse interval.

Bearded Seals

(Erignathus barbatus)

Bearded seals are cold water seals that live in the circumpolar regions of the northern hemisphere. The males are among the most vocal of marine animals. They produce complex vocalizations consisting of long, spiraling trills; shorter sweep calls; flat, tonal grunts; and short, low frequency moans.

Humpback Whales

(Megaptera novaeangliae)

Humpback whales are found worldwide. They perform their complex songs primarily during their winter mating season in subtropical waters, but they also sing in the fall before their annual migration begins. Male humpback whales have been described as “inveterate composers” of songs that are “‘strikingly similar’ to human musical traditions”.

Sperm Whales

(Physeter macrocephalus)

Sperm whales are found throughout the ocean. They produce distinctive sounds called clicks that they use to forage and communicate at large distances. They have the most complex vocal apparatus of all the cetacean species and present a highly complex social structure built over 30 millions of years of evolution.

Seismic Activity

A variety of artificial noises are introduced into the ocean, associated to human activities. Some of them have the potential to harm marine life and the offshore industries are increasingly asked to take mitigation measures to limit negative effects on ocean ecosystems.


Dolphins and whales share the same ocean and their sounds overlap when traveling across the deep.

The Sense of Silence Foundation continuously looks at deploying its silent ears in areas where wild fauna is threatened. Our efforts include:

  • Completing a network of acoustic stations in the Amazon to help the conservation of the boto, an ancient and endangered fresh water dolphin.
  • Expanding the worldwide coverage of the LIDO programme to continue strengthening a global understanding of ocean noise issues.
  • Building-up an Arctic Underwater Observatory to monitor marine fauna and developing adapted technological solutions to respond to the challenges faced by this changing ocean.
  • Taking the technology developed underwater up to the trees, to support the conservation efforts of the jaguars, in the Amazon and in the Pantanal.

To continue these unique programmes, we need your help.