FHL 585 | Summer A 2020

Marine Animal Bioacoustics

Credits: 9

Instructor(s): Dr. Joseph Sisneros , Dr. Timothy Tricas , Dr. Lane Seeley


The primary goal of this five-week course is to provide advanced undergraduates and graduate students with a broad understanding of the acoustic tools and techniques required for investigating fundamental questions of animal bioacoustics, behavior and communication, especially with marine mammals and fishes found locally in the waters of the San Juan Islands, WA. The instructors will provide a unique interdisciplinary approach to marine animal bioacoustics from their research perspectives of biology (Dr. Timothy Tricas), psychology (Dr. Joseph Sisneros) and physics (Dr. Lane Seeley). Through a combination of intensive lectures and discussions, extensive hands-on laboratory training, one-on-one interactions with course faculty, lab exercises and student-led projects, students will investigate the bioacoustics of marine animals in relation to their natural behavior and acoustic biology. Students will also be introduced to both foundational and contemporary theories of underwater acoustics (including the theory and application of pressure and particle motion in acoustical waves, and Fourier Analysis). They will use modern techniques for the recording and digital analysis of bioacoustic vocal behaviors of marine animals in the laboratory and field.

This includes the use of LabView software for the fully automated production, recording and analysis of acoustical signals. Students will also learn basic auditory physiology techniques such as auditory evoked potential recordings that are used to determine animal hearing capabilities of marine organisms. As part of the course, students will also have the opportunity to work with the instructors to develop individual or team research projects with established scientists using state-of-the-art tools and techniques.

In addition to the intensive hands-on laboratory training, students will also be required to give presentations and lead group paper discussions throughout the course. Student presentations and group discussions will focus on 2-3 research theme papers per week. Papers will be drawn from the current primary literature and will be chosen to complement the lecture topics for that week. Each paper will be presented to the group by a pair of students. The goals of these presentations/discussions will be two-fold: first, to improve the student’s ability to think critically, and second, to give the students a sense of contemporary research being conducted in the field of marine bioacoustics. The purpose of the group discussions is to promote rigorous in-class discussions of the research goals and hypotheses, methods, approaches, implications of discoveries, and scientific writing in the assigned papers. The task for each student will not only be to understand the research presented in the paper, but also to identify its strengths and weakness, and evaluate its importance to the field. Some questions that we will ask the students to consider and ponder about the assigned reading will be as follows: What is the paper’s primary objective? Does it attempt to test a specific hypothesis? Are the methods appropriate? If the methods are observational, are they free from bias? If experimental, are they properly designed? Are the data analyzed appropriately? What are the main results, and how do the authors interpret them? Do the data support their hypotheses? Have the authors considered alternative explanations? How do these results compare with previous work in the area? Do they advance our understanding of this field of research? What further work might be warranted?

The course will be limited to 15 students.

Proposed textbook: Principles of Marine Bioacoustics by Whit Au and Mardi Hastings (Springer Publishing). Alternatively, we may provide a collection of web-based, open-source, resources.  More information to be provided soon.

Course instructors:

Dr. Joseph Sisneros, Professor
University of Washington
Department of Psychology
Webpage: https://www.sisneroslab.org/
Dr. Timothy Tricas, Professor
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Department of Biology
Webpage: http://www.hawaii.edu/fishlab/Dr. Lane Seeley, Professor
Seattle Pacific University
Department of Physics
Webpage: http://spu.edu/academics/college-of-arts-sciences/physics/faculty-staff/seeley-lane