We would like to let you know that the annual report for our Southern California Behavioral Response Study from 2011 is now available online on the SOCAL-BRS website.  Please go to <> We would like to especially thank all of our team members for their hard work, as well as the support of our research sponsors at U.S. Navy, Chief of Naval Operations, Environmental Readiness Division (OPNAV N45) and the Office of Naval Research.  Thanks also for the efforts of NOAA’s Office of Science and Technology and Office of Protected Resources, the Southwest Regional Marine Mammal Stranding Network, the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, the California Coastal Commission, and the American Cetacean Society..

Additional information regarding our data analysis, publications, and 2012 research plans as we continue to evolve this project will be forthcoming in the next few months.  Thanks for all the interest and comments in this project and stay tuned for some new results and publications coming soon.


New paper published on Assessing Acoustic Impacts in the Arctic

As interest in the rapid changes that are ongoing and forthcoming in the Arctic Ocean have increased, so has the study and assessment of impacts in the critical ecosystems found there.  Several colleagues and I collaborated on a paper that was just published in BioScience.  If you would like a .pdf copy of the paper, kindly send me an email and I will send it to you.

Moore, S.E., Reeves, R.R., Southall, B.L., Ragen, T.J., Suydam, R.S.,
and ClarkC.W.  (2012).  Marine mammals and anthropogenic sound in a rapidly changing Arctic.  BioScience 62, 289-295.



SEA Bloggers,

Our partners at Wharton Media are soon to be launching a new and exciting web-based education and outreach effort called  More information on this forthcoming resource and collaboration is given below.

About is a Wharton Media-led education and outreach initiative dedicated to raising awareness about the critical role scientific research plays in the understanding and conservation of the southern sea otter.  In collaboration with researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and California Department of Fish & Game, will offer an unprecedented look into extraordinary life and world of this endearing and threatened species.
Among the key goals of are to:
  • leverage the strength and reach of digital and social media to educate the
    public about the interconnectedness of land and sea;  that the health of
    sea otters, the nearshore marine ecosystem and humans are inextricably
    linked; that what we do here on land not only impacts us, but also our
    oceans and marine life
  • raise funds to support sea otter research, conservation and education
  • provide a central, comprehensive digital resource center dedicated to sea otter research, education, and conservation
  • educate  the public about the critical role scientific research plays in the
    understanding and conservation of the southern sea otter
  • raise awareness about the natural and anthropogenic factors threatening their population recovery
  • educate the public about the sea otters’ ecological role as a keystone and sentinel species
  • promote environmental and scientific literacy in an engaging and meaningful way
  • aid in the dissemination of sea otter research

Recent press on Ellison et al. (2011) paper in Conservation Biology

A recent article in the online publication Science 2.0 focuses on a recent paper published by Bill Ellison, Chris Clark, Adam Frankel, and myself in the journal Conservation Biology <for a description and link to this article, please see: <>

The recent media piece on the Ellison et al. (2011) paper was written by  Caitlin Kight and is entitled “Rethinking Marine Acoustic Ecology Research: Is It Time For A Change?”  The full article can be found online at: <> and the first few paragraphs are given below:

“Conservationists and managers are always looking to collect more and better data in order to verify that their policies are appropriate and biologically sound. This is particularly true when the policies are applied in environments undergoing rapid or constant change, and when those policies were originally based on relatively small amounts of data–two descriptions that reflect the situation in marine habitats exposed to anthropogenic noise.

According to a team of bioacousticians writing in the most recent issue of Conservation Biology, most current marine regulations assume that the effects of noise are linked, in a dose-dependent manner, to the strength of the sound pressure level received by the animal. As a result, policies are developed using a “zones of influence concept,” in which there are concentric rings centered on a sound source; animals positioned in the inner rings should suffer the most intense damage, while those in increasingly distant rings should suffer less damage. “Damage,” in this case, is usually thought of as being predominantly physical, ranging from death and burst air bladders to permanent or temporary shifts in hearing thresholds (or, in other words, deafness).

But, the authors argue, studies in terrestrial environments have clearly shown that noise can have more subtle, but equally important, effects on wildlife. For instance, abundance and diversity may shift as animals flee from, or learn to avoid, particularly noisy areas; individuals may alter their behaviors in counterproductive or even dangerous ways; and noise may make important acoustic signals difficult to hear, even in the absence of actual deafness. In short, the researchers write, the current marine noise concept “ignores a diverse suite of environmental, biological, and operation factors” that can impact both perception of, and response to, anthropogenic noise. Thus, they argue, it is necessary to overhaul the system and “[incorporate] context into behavioral-response assessment.”

New website on marine bioacoustics and ocean noise

FYI – you may be interested in a new website related to some of the kinds of issues SEA is working on in ocean noise.  Check out:

Also, below is a short description of the site and it’s content and objectives sent in a recent announcement.

“Dear Colleagues and Associates,

Ocean Conservation Research has assembled an informational website focused on issues concerning the impacts of noise on marine life.

The site is intended for an educated lay audience with some scientific literacy. We have included a sound/audiograph library with biological and common anthropogenic sounds, descriptions and discussions of some of the pressing concerns, links to other resources, papers, media, and descriptions of some of our projects.

Very little of the work represented in the website would have been possible
without the work of many of the people on this circulation list. We have
attributed this work as much as we could, but due to the vagaries of
internet “data mining” it is likely that we have missed some sources.
Please let us know where we have not included proper attributions.

Please also let us know of any errors you find so we can correct them.

If you would like to receive occasional newsletters specifically about
ocean noise and marine bioacoustics you may sign up through the website
or through this link.

We intend the site to be dynamic and evolving and hope that you find it informative.”


New advances in digital textbooks for marine science: CACHALOT

SEA Blog,

Thought you might be interested to know of some recent and very interesting developments in the use of digital multimedia in higher education in marine science.  Dr. Dave Johnston from Duke University is spearheading the development and expansion of a remarkable digital texbook called “Cachalot.”  This is a free, open-source interactive software appliation that uses the iPad.  It is regularly updated to integrate new information and provides photo, video, and audio multimedia information to supplement text.

For more information on CACHALOT and to download the app, go to:

To read more about this remarkable new capability, see the recent feature artcle on it in WIRED:

CNN Opinion Piece


FYI – Christopher Clark and I had an opinion piece on CNN today.  You can find the permalink at: and the full text is included below.

Thanks also to our friends at Ocean Conservation Research <see:> and at the New Bedford Whaling Museum <see:> for their informative blogs about this article.

Any comments or perspectives on the suggestions we have put forth in this piece are welcome.  Brandon Southall


Turn down the volume in the ocean

By Christopher Clark and
Brandon Southall, Special to CNN

For many millions of years, the oceans
have been filled with the sounds of a geologically and biologically active
planet: waves, rain, earthquakes and the songs of life from snapping shrimp to
great whales. Before the age of engine-driven ships, the resounding voices of
the great whales could be heard across an ocean.

Today, in much of the Northern
Hemisphere, commercial shipping clouds the marine acoustic environment with fog
banks of noise, and the near continuous pounding of seismic airguns in search
of fossil fuels beneath the seafloor thunder throughout the waters. In the
ocean’s very quietest moments, blue whales singing off the Grand Banks of
Canada can sometimes be heard more than 1,500 miles away off the coast of
Puerto Rico. But on most days, that distance is a mere 50 to 100 miles.

So why should we care?

Over the past decade, scientists who
study noise in the ocean have tried to understand how loud, man-made sounds
disturb or injure whales and other marine mammals, even driving some to strand
on beaches and die.

It is time for us to focus on the more
pernicious influence of chronic, large-scale noise on marine life.

Whales, dolphins and seals use sounds
to communicate, navigate, find food and detect predators. The rising level of
cumulative noise from energy exploration, offshore development and commercial shipping
is a constant disruption on their social networks. For life in today’s ocean,
the basic activities that we depend on for our lives on land are being eroded
by the increasing amount of human noise beneath the waves.

These stark realities are worrying. But
emerging technologies for quantifying and visualizing the effects of noise
pollution can help drive a paradigm shift in how we perceive, monitor, manage
and mitigate human sounds in the ocean. Ocean noise is a global problem, but
the U.S. should step up and lead the way.

First, we must extend fledgling efforts
to fully comprehend the acoustic footprint of our offshore and coastal
activities. As a nation, we are failing the oceans by lacking a sufficiently
effective program for listening to them.

The U.S. should develop and maintain
dedicated undersea acoustic monitoring networks as integral parts of ocean
observing systems. This would be lead by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) and enabled through private and academic partnerships.
Such a plan has been developed; now it should be implemented.

Second, we should encourage and
accelerate the development of noise-reduction technologies. Thanks to proactive
collaborations among industries, scientists, environmentalists and government
officials, efforts are underway within the U.N.’s International Maritime
Organization to develop quieting technologies for the most pervasive global
noise source: large commercial ships. These and related technologies for
reducing noise in oil exploration and marine construction should be

Finally, federal regulation on ocean
noise must be changed. For decades, regulators have focused entirely on the
short-term effects of one action at a time. A more holistic and biologically
relevant risk assessment system, centered on the concepts of ocean acoustic
habitats and ecosystems, is sorely needed. Emerging trends in marine spatial
planning are encouraging signs, as is NOAA’s support of two groups that are
developing geospatial tools for mapping underwater noise and marine mammal
distributions in U.S. waters.

The loss of acoustic habitats for
marine species that rely on sound to live and prosper is increasing. Solutions
are available. The question is whether we humans value and will invest in a
healthy ocean ecosystem that supports life, and in doing so, sustain our own
health and future.





Science Magazine Article on Tag Analysis and SOCAL BRS efforts

Some of the research efforts conducted in SOCAL-BRS were presented and discussed by one of our team members Dr. Jeremy Goldbogen at the recent Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting in South Carolina.  A popular press article on some of the work Jeremy has been doing with SOCAL-BRS and other related projects ran recently in Science Magazine <>.  The first few paragraphs of the article are given here.  Nice work Jeremy!

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA—A surfacing whale is a sight to see, but it would be even more dramatic to watch one ply the ocean depths. Researchers have taken a step closer to doing just that with sophisticated radio-tagging technology and a new computer program that uses the data to recreate a whale’s path underwater. The results, presented here yesterday at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, are helping scientists understand how the school bus-sized beasts are able to take in enough food to sustain their great girth, and how underwater noises, such as sonar, might affect their well-being.

Comparative physiologist Jeremy Goldbogen of the Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, Washington, studies feeding in blue fin and other so-called rorqual whales. For almost a decade, he and his colleagues have been attaching suction cup radio tags onto the backs of the cetaceans. The tags record depth, sound, and other parameters as the whales swim. After a set amount of time, they fall off, float to the surface, and send out a radio signal so they can be retrieved and their data analyzed.

The work showed that in one giant gulp, a blue whale—the biggest creature on Earth—takes in 125% of its body weight in water and krill. During their dives, the cetaceans ram into patches of krill, opening their mouths wide and wrapping their jaws around prey-laden water, a move that stops them short. Next, they close their mouths and push water through their baleen, a system of plates that filter out the food, then speed up for another feeding bout.

But details about this feeding strategy had been lacking. This past summer, Goldbogen monitored several blue and fin whales with new tag technology that detects the changes in the whales’ orientation in space, much like smart phones “know” whether they’re held in a horizontal or vertical position and adapt screens accordingly. For the 6 to 24 hours they are attached to the whale, the tags also record depth and sound; from the loudness of the water rushing past a diving whale, researchers can calculate its speed. “We use these sensors to reconstruct what the whales are doing,” Goldbogen said.

Recent SMM presentation on Vessel Quieting Technology


At the recent Society for Marine Mammalogy Meeting in Tampa, FL, a number of us co-authored a presentation given by Amy Scholik-Schlomer of NOAA’s Office of Protected Resources.  The presentation was entitled:

Reducing Underwater Noise from Large Commercial Ships

Amy R. Scholik-Schlomer (NOAA), Trisha Bergmann (NOAA), Leila Hatch (NOAA), Michael Jasny (NRDC), Kathy Metcalf (Chamber of Shipping of America), Brandon Southall (Southall Environmental Associates/NOAA), Lindy Weilgart (Dalhousie University/ Okeanos Foundation), Andrew Wright (Aarhus University).

.pdf copies of the slides are available on request and additionally, a number of related sites and issues mentioned therein are given here.
* NOAA symposia:

* OKEANOS workshop:

* IFAW report on vessel quieting:

* Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA):

* EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive:

* American National Standard Quantities and
Procedures for Description and Measurement of Underwater Sound from Ships  (ANSI S12.64):

* IMO MEPC reports: These reports have to be
requested directly from your country representative (e.g., In U.S.: US Coast
Guard). Nevertheless, some of these reports have been posted on the web by
other groups. You can try searching “MEPC 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, or 62” and “Noise
from Commercial Shipping and its Adverse Impacts on Marine Life.”

New Book on Effects of Noise on Aquatic Life

A new book was recently released with chapters derived from presentations given at the 2nd International Conference on the Effects of Noise on Marine Life held in Cork, Ireland in 2010.  The book is entitled:

The Effects of Noise on Aquatic Life [within the Series: Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, Vol. 730]

Popper, Arthur N.; Hawkins, Anthony (Eds.)

2012, 695 p. 167 illus., 57 in color.  Hardcover, ISBN: 978-1-4419-7310-8

The book is available at:

SEA, Inc. President and Senior Scientist Dr. Brandon Southall gave the keynote lecture at this international symposium.  The resulting publication from this lecture appears as the first chapter in this book and is entitled: “Noise and Marine Life: Progress From Nyborg to Cork in Science and Technology to Inform Decision Making.”  Hard copy versions of this book chapter are available on request from





SOCAL-BRS is a study of basic behavior and responses to controlled sound exposures in a variety of marine mammal species.

Southall Environmental Associates, Inc.

Reducing environmental impacts from essential human activities requires unique approaches to meet challenging conservation objectives in the 21st century. SEA, Inc. works globally with diverse scientific teams and cutting-edge technologies to provide real-world solutions. Learn more about SEA