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Standards Spotlight

Views of Real-World Impact

ANSI shines a spotlight on Standards in action as they support safety, efficiency and well-being in interesting aspects of everyday life.

sturgeon swimming

Dinosaurs of the Sea: Standards Help Save Sturgeons from Extinction


Since prehistoric times, gigantic lake sturgeon fish have swam in lakes and rivers from Minnesota to Louisiana. These massive creatures can grow to be more than 300 pounds and nearly eight feet long, with shovel-shaped snouts and long whiskers near their mouths. But in the past 100 years, the sturgeon population has decreased dramatically due to overfishing and river dams that cut off access to their ideal spawning habitats. A research team in Missouri is looking to counter this trend and bring this endangered species back from the brink of extinction.

Scientists are tracking adult lake sturgeons in the Mississippi River by implanting radio transmitters under their skin. Biologists and U.S. Army Corps engineers travel through the river on boats, holding microphones underwater to listen for the indicator that a tagged sturgeon is near; other microphones are permanently installed underwater to record the passage of tagged fish as well. Following the path of sturgeons helps scientists identify where they reproduce, giving them a better understanding of which habitats need to be protected in order to encourage spawning.

Standards guide the tools that scientists have used to track these ancient fish. Radio transmitters, carefully inserted under the skin in hundreds of lake sturgeons’ bellies, produce radio waves with that allow the scientists to identify when they are near. IEEE 211-2018, IEEE Standard Definitions of Terms for Radio Waves Propagation, provides terms and definitions used in the context of electromagnetic wave propagation relating to the fields of telecommunications, remote sensing, radio astronomy, optical waves, plasma waves, the ionosphere, the magnetosphere, and magnetohydrodynamic, acoustic, and electrostatic waves are supplied. This standard was developed by IEEE, a member and accredited standards developer of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Many standards support the development of advanced microphones, whether they’re specified for use in the laboratory, on the stage, or – in the case of this research – underwater. ANSI/ASA S1.20, Procedures for Calibration of Underwater Electroacoustic Transducers, establishes measurement procedures for calibrating electroacoustic transducers, such as microphones, and describes forms for presenting and assessing the resultant data. This American National Standard (ANS) was developed by the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), an ANSI member and accredited standards developer.

The equipment used to bring the scientists onto the river and keep them safe is guided by standards too. Scientists travel to the location of the sturgeons on engine powered speedboats; the safe operations of these boats is supported by ABYC A-33, Emergency Engine/Propulsion Cut-Off Devices, an ANS developed by ANSI member and accredited standards developer the American Boat and Yacht Council. Aboard the boat, scientists donned life jackets also guided by standards, such as ASTM F1823, Standard Guide for Water Rescue Personal Flotation Device. This standard was developed by ASTM International, an ANSI member and audited designator.

Learn more about the ongoing efforts to increase the sturgeon population in a Wisconsin Public Radio article and 3-minute NPR segment (transcript also available).