Underwater Acoustics for Biologists & Conservation Managers

Course length:

3 Days



Course dates

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This three-day course is designed for biologists, and conservation managers, who wish to enhance their understanding of the underlying principles of underwater and engineering acoustics needed to evaluate the impact of anthropogenic noise on marine life. This course provides a framework for making objective assessments of the impact of various types of sound sources. Critical topics are introduced through clear and readily understandable heuristic models and graphics.

What You Will Learn:

  • The fundamentals of sound and how to properly describe its characteristics
  • Modern acoustic analysis techniques
  • What are the key characteristics of man-made sound sources and usage of correct metrics
  • How to evaluate the resultant sound field from impulsive, coherent and continuous sources
  • What animal characteristics are important for assessing both impact and requirements for monitoring/and mitigation
  • Capabilities of passive and active monitoring and mitigation systems

Course Outline:

Understanding and Measuring Sound

  1. The Language of Physics and the Study of Motion This quick review of physics basics is designed to introduce acoustics to the neophyte.
  2. What Is Sound and How To Measure Its Level This includes a quick review of physics basics is designed to introduce acoustics to the neophyte. The properties of sound are described, including the challenging task of properly measuring and reporting its level.
  3. Digital Representation of Sound Today, almost all sound is recorded and analyzed digitally. This section focuses on the process by which analog sound is digitized, stored and analyzed.
  4. Spectral Analysis: A Qualitative Introduction The fundamental process for analyzing sound is spectral analysis. This section will introduce spectral analysis and illustrate its application in creating frequency spectra and spectrograms.
  5. Basics of Underwater Propagation and Use of Acoustic Propagation ModelsThe fundamental principles of geometric spreading, refraction, boundary effects and absorption will be introduced and illustrated using propagation models. Ocean acidification

Question and Answer Session

The Acoustic Environment and its Inhabitants

  1. The ambient Acoustic Environment The first topic will be a discussion of the sources and characteristics of natural ambient noise.
  2. Basic characteristics of anthropogenic sound sources – implosive (airguns, pile drivers, explosives). Coherent (sonars, acoustic models, depth sounder, profilers,) continuous (shipping, offshore industrial activities).
  3. Review of Hearing Anatomy and Physiology: Marine Mammals, Fish and Turtles – review of hearing in marine mammals
  4. Marine Wildlife of interest and their characteristics – MM, turtles fish, inverts. Bioacoustics, hearing threshold, vocalization behavior; supporting databases on seasonal density and movement.

Question and Answer Session

Effects of Sound on Animals

  1. Review and History of ocean anthropogenic noise issue – current state of knowledge and key references
  2. Assessment of the impact of anthropogenic sound – Source-TL- receiver approach, level of sound as received by wildlife, injury, behavioral response, TTS, PTS, masking, modeling techniques, field measurements, assessment methods
  3. Monitoring and mitigation techniques – passive devise (fixed and towed systems). Active Detections, matching device capabilities to environmental requirements 9examples of passive and active localization, long-term monitoring, fish exposure testing)


  • Overview of Current Research Efforts.


Question and Answer Session


Dr. Adam S. Frankel is a senior scientist with Marine Acoustics, Inc., Arlington, VA and vice-president of the Hawai‘i Marine Mammal Consortium. For the past 25 years, his primary research has focused on the role of natural sounds in marine mammals and the effects of anthropogenic sounds on the marine environment, especially the impact on marine mammals. A graduate of the College of William and Mary, Dr. Frankel received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, where he studied and recorded the sounds of humpback whales. Post-doctoral work was with Cornell University’s Bioacoustics Research Program. Published research includes a recent paper on melon-headed whale vocalizations. Both scientist and educator, Frankel combines his Hawai‘i – based research and acoustics expertise with teaching for Cornell University and other schools. He has advised numerous graduate students, all of whom make him proud. Frankel is a member of both the Society for the Biology of Marine Mammals and the Acoustical Society of America.


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