Whale Acoustics

Whale, dolphins, and porpoises have the ability to transmit and receive underwater sound for communication or hunting purposes. Visual and acoustic monitoring of vocalizing marine mammals provides information on their seasonal and geographic (time-space) presence and insight to their behavioral characteristics. We are conducting studies of vocalizing baleen and odonotcete (toothed) whale presence off Southern California, Alaska, Hawaii, and Antarctica using various passive acoustic recording tools and ship-based visual techniques.

Our primary acoustic tools, acoustic recording packages (ARPs), are autonomous, stationary seafloor instruments that can continuously record underwater sound at rates up to 1 kHz for durations over one-year. Developed by our lab, ARPs have been used worldwide for multi-year studies of baleen whale presence. Currently, we are developing another more capable autonomous bottom-mounted instrument, high-frequency acoustic recording package (HARP), for recording odonotocetes at frequencies over 100 kHz.

We are also developing an acoustic-structural finite element model (FEM) of a beaked whale from CT, MRI and tissue property data to understand how these animals transmit and receive sound. Recent stranding events of beaked whales have been linked to concurrent, nearby sonar activity. Our modeling efforts are focused on understanding the relationship between the strandings and the acoustic events.

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