Date of Award

Fall 2016

Project Type


Program or Major

Civil Engineering

Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Charlie Goodspeed

Second Advisor

Erin S Bell

Third Advisor

Ricardo A Medina


Until the last decade, the underwater sound produced during marine pile driving and underwater drilling work was not considered a hazard to marine life. However, beginning with state environmental agencies on the West Coast, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service has taken a national interest in this possible source of environmental disturbance to endangered species and marine mammals. Under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act and the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act, “taking” of endangered species or marine mammals includes activities that could cause physical harm, harassment, or behavioral modification of a protected species. High intensity sound produced by construction activities can meet these legal standards of a “taking”.

Many northern New England rivers and coastal areas are known habitats for endangered fish species and marine mammals. In response, NOAA NMFS has added recently-developed limits on sound energy produced by construction activities to its permits for new bridges and coastal infrastructure in locations considered a habitat for protected species. The equipment and methodologies to determine compliance to sound limits are generally unknown to the construction and civil engineering industry in New England. The University of New Hampshire Department of Civil Engineering was approached by regional DOT’s and contractors to develop an approach to meet these monitoring requirements. Several types of hydrophone equipment and data analysis methods were evaluated to assist regional DOT’s and contractors with accurately meeting the monitoring requirements on several projects. The goal of this research was to develop a means to accurately meet project noise monitoring specifications while ensuring that projects were not unduly impacted by inaccurate or unreasonable analysis of the acquired data. Over the course of several years and a handful of pile driving and foundation drilling projects, regional expertise was demonstrated in this complex and emerging area of regulatory compliance. Several critical areas for future research were identified to provide owners and contractors with methods to predict possible impacts during the design and planning phases of a project and reduce project risk.