Proposal for the NOAA Ocean Acoustics Program: Partial financial support for the Watkins Memorial Symposium on Marine Mammal Bioacoustics

Laela S. Sayigh, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


One of the founding fathers of marine mammal bioacoustics, William Watkins, carried out pioneering work at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) for more than four decades, laying the groundwork for the present day field. Ten years after his passing, this field has become increasingly important for both basic and applied research on marine mammals, and thus the time is right to hold a symposium that focuses on the role of marine mammal bioacoustics in various aspects of marine mammal biology and conservation. This proposal requests funds to partially cover costs of an international symposium on Marine Mammal Bioacoustics, to be held at the New Bedford Whaling Museum from March 26-29, 2015. This symposium will be divided into five or six topical sessions, each beginning with an invited talk by an expert in the field. All of the invited experts personally worked with Bill Watkins and are a testament to his continued legacy. Session topics include Sound Production and Reception, Communication, Effects of Noise on Marine Mammals, Methods in Marine Mammal Bioacoustics Research, and Bioacoustics as a Tool for Conservation. An evening session will be devoted to Bill Watkins’ legacy to marine mammal bioacoustics. The symposium is open to all interested parties, and is directly relevant to one of NOAA’s mission goals to "protect, restore, and manage the use of coastal and ocean resources through an ecosystem approach to management." Marine mammals, as key components of marine ecosystems, are often sentinel species for these ecosystems. Thus, research that focuses on assessing the occurrence, distribution, and behavior of these species is highly relevant to ecosystem monitoring and management. The proposed symposium may also contribute to new approaches in teaching or outreach by participants exposed to new ideas. We anticipate publishing the proceedings of this symposium as a special issue of either the Journal of Acoustical Society of America or Marine Mammal Science, thus making available to a wide audience the results and ideas that are presented.