Seatrec Partners with Naval Postgraduate School to Study Ocean Soundscape

Seatrec and Naval Postgraduate School Launch a New Project to Study Ocean Soundscape and Chart Impact of Noise Pollution on Ocean Environment

Hydrophone-equipped autonomous float powered by the ocean’s temperature differences will listen for clues to help minimize the impact of human noise

VISTA, Calif., November 14, 2022 -  Seatrec and the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) today launched a new project to study the impact of human-made noise on the ocean soundscape and marine life. An Ocean Sonics hydrophone installed on a Seatrec autonomous sustainably powered float system is the first of its kind and enables acoustic data to be collected anywhere in the world’s oceans nearly indefinitely.

“When it comes to understanding the ocean, sound is everything, but persistent listening is extremely difficult and expensive,” explains Yi Chao, Ph.D., Seatrec’s CEO and Founder. “The Naval Postgraduate School is a great partner, and we are excited to help them research acoustic impacts more effectively and affordably. Providing the necessary scientific instruments that are powered by the ocean’s own temperature differences opens the door to persistent monitoring of our oceans in an economical manner.”

Studies show that noise from humans adversely affects a broad range of organisms including whales, fish, jellyfish, squid and octopuses. High noise levels even contribute to deformities among scallop larvae. However, the true extent of impacts from noise pollution is not well understood.

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 brought with it unprecedented silence as human activities related to commerce and recreation all but ceased. That reduction in human activity gave scientists a new baseline for ocean noise and highlighted the impact that human noise pollution has on life in the ocean.

“Sound is the way the Navy and many marine animals ‘see’ through the ocean,” says John Joseph, the principal investigator and faculty associate for research at the Naval Postgraduate School. “It’s critical that we understand the reach and scale of the collective human impact on the ocean soundscape to inform strategies for protecting marine species and improving naval operations for the defense of our ships and Sailors at sea.”

The COVID-related silence also offered a powerful argument for broadening the deployment of hydrophones to monitor ocean noise and to include hydrophones on autonomous platforms to provide real-time acoustic data for the dynamic management of vulnerable areas. Underwater gliders have been used in this role and are also used by the Navy for passive surveillance, but they are powered by batteries with a limited lifetime and are usually confined to near the coast.

Traditional hydrophones are positioned at depths around 1,000 meters (3,300 feet), within the SOFAR (SOund Fixing And Ranging) channel, where the sound speed is minimum. Sound is trapped within this SOFAR channel by refraction and can travel slowly over great distances. Hydrophones can be lowered into the SOFAR channel from a ship, which is expensive to operate – often starting at $50,000 per day. They can also be placed on the seafloor and powered by fiber optic cables connected to a shore station on land, but there are only a handful of places with this infrastructure.

“Our hydrophone float powered by Seatrec’s patented energy harvesting system can be deployed into the SOFAR channel anywhere over the world’s ocean,” said Yi. “It offers nearly unlimited persistent surveillance of the ocean without the need for ship support as the float battery is recharged by the temperature differences in the ocean.”

Naval forces have an inherent operational reason to be quiet at sea, and the research into ocean noise may provide additional insight for the Navy and Marine Corps in planning for future underway operations.

“Passive acoustic listening has many operational and research applications in the Navy, and our students at NPS conduct applied research to meet naval-unique needs for at-sea operations that require measurements of ambient noise, understanding soundscapes and monitoring of marine mammals,” added Joseph. “Because the Seatrec platform will be long-lived, and is remotely operated, it can provide extensive time series of information to oceanographers and naval researchers to measure acoustics and how they are changing from human impact including climate change.”

This research effort is supported by the Consortium for Robotics and Unmanned Systems Education and Research (CRUSER) at NPS, which is funded by the Office of Naval Research to provide a collaborative environment for the advancement of educational and research endeavors across the Navy and Marine Corps.

This project comes on the heels of Seatrec’s recent launch of Project NEMO – an initiative in partnership with The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project to install an active acoustic echosounder to Seatrec’s thermally powered float.

About Seatrec
Seatrec designs and manufactures energy harvesting systems that generate electricity from naturally occurring temperature differences in ocean waters. This renewable energy can be used to power deep water oceanographic research equipment such as autonomous profiling floats, resulting in the most scalable, cost-effective deep ocean data collection possible. The company is headquartered in Vista, CA. Visit us at and @seatrecinc.

About the Naval Postgraduate School
The Naval Postgraduate School is a defense-focused graduate university offering master’s and doctoral degrees in fields of study core to Naval-unique needs, the U.S. Armed Forces, DOD civilians and international partners. For information, visit:

Media Contact
Sean Yokomizo
+1 925.878.1200


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Seatrec Selected for Gulf Blue Navigator Program

Seatrec Wins Spot in Inaugural Gulf Blue Navigator Program to Bring Ocean Innovation to the Gulf of Mexico

The University of Southern Mississippi Research Foundation-led initiative aims to recruit technology startups focused on improving ocean health, securing critical infrastructure, increasing coastal resilience and driving the Blue Economy

VISTA, Calif. – WEBWIRE – Monday, November 7, 2022 Seatrec, a renewable energy company that harvests energy from temperature differences in the environment, today announces that it was selected as one of six startups to join the inaugural Gulf Blue Navigator Program established by the University of Southern Mississippi Research Foundation and SeaAhead. Seatrec and the other startups in the new program were selected from a pool of 48 applicants across 12 countries.

The Gulf Blue Navigator program provides innovative, ocean-focused startups with market access to the Gulf of Mexico region, proximity to federal agencies, technical facilities, and expertise. These blue technology startups will leverage the existing strengths and capabilities of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and shorten the timeline of product development and market access.

“The Gulf of Mexico is a critically important area both economically and in terms of people affected by hurricanes,” explains Yi Chao, Ph.D., CEO and Founder of Seatrec. “Addressing the challenges facing the Gulf - from better predicting hurricanes to developing sustainable economic growth - requires innovative technology and Seatrec is excited to be part of the inaugural cohort.”

There is evidence to support that rapid intensification of major hurricanes - like Katrina, Irma and Ian - is strongly influenced by ocean conditions below the surface but current methods do not allow timely subsurface measurements over a large area.

Seatrec’s innovation to harvest energy from the ocean’s temperature differences can reduce the data collection interval from 10 days to 8 hours - 30 times more data than the battery-powered alternative - and increase the spatial coverage. This new wellspring of data provides a missing piece to improve the hurricane forecast, especially during rapid intensification.

Before the hurricane season in 2022, Seatrec successfully deployed two ocean-powered floats in the Gulf of Mexico to demonstrate the concept of operation. Support from the Gulf Blue Navigator program will allow Seatrec to expand the number of floats to be deployed before the next hurricane season in 2023 and collect the data needed to provide timely and accurate predictions of hurricane rapid intensification.

The program will also help Seatrec expand the development of clean, renewable power solutions for commercial applications across industries from transportation to aquaculture.

Startups participating in the program are provided access to advanced interactive workshops taught by practitioners in the field, site visits with large industry and federal agencies, co-working space at the historic Gulf and Ship Island Building in Gulfport, and customized mentorship to meet the needs of each startup. The program will kick off the first week of November with the cohort visiting all three Coastal counties as a first step to developing partnerships to accelerate commercialization.

About Seatrec
Seatrec designs and manufactures energy harvesting systems that generate electricity from naturally occurring temperature differences in ocean waters. This renewable energy can be used to power deep water oceanographic research equipment such as floats, gliders, and autonomous underwater vehicles, resulting in the most scalable, cost-effective deep ocean data collection possible. Incorporated in 2016 by CEO, Dr. Yi Chao, Seatrec’s technology originated at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, to provide clean power for remote off-grid locations. The company is headquartered in Vista, CA. Visit us at and @seatrecinc.

The USM Research Foundation is a Mississippi non-profit corporation formed in 1998 and is administered and operated exclusively for the benefit of The University of Southern Mississippi. The foundation supports and enhances the research mission of the University by promoting the increase of useful knowledge and encouraging the development of intellectual property owned by the University. The foundation also provides support to the University by managing research contracts, coworking space and entrepreneurial programs.

About USM
The University of Southern Mississippi’s support for the Gulf Blue Navigator program is anchored by the Marine Research Center with its ability to support autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) development ranging from prototyping to over-the-horizon at-sea testing, the Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center which conducts research in algae, fin and shell-based aquaculture as well as recirculating aquaculture system-based farming, and the Mississippi Polymer Institute.

About SeaAhead
Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., SeaAhead Inc. specializes in high-potential, ocean-focused technology startups, building global networks, and venture financing. Now also co-located in the Gulf & Ship Island building in Gulfport, SeaAhead’s platform, in tandem with USM’s infrastructure and mission of fostering a culture of innovation, will connect promising global blue technology startups to the Mississippi Gulf Coast blue economy.

Media Contact
Sean Yokomizo
+1 925.878.1200