Archive for the ‘Alumni news’ Category

Job: Field scientist for marine mammal noise in AK


If you missed this announcement on the MarMam listserve, it looks like a good fit for a Beam Reach alum.  JASCO is a productive firm employing great acousticians, including Christine Erbe.

Position Description: Field SUPPORT SCIENTIST(S)

JASCO Applied Sciences is an international group of companies with over 30 years’ experience in the Oil & Gas, Renewable Energy, Marine Construction, Environmental, Oceanographic and Defense sectors. We are a world-leader in the science related to anthropogenic noise and its effects on marine life. JASCO has immediate openings for Field Support Scientist(s) in our Anchorage, Alaska office.

Position Overview 

As a Field Support Scientist you will conduct scientific research programs in the field and at sea participating in the preparation, deployment, and retrieval of a variety of underwater acoustic instrumentation packages.  This may require considerable travel worldwide.


  • Participate in scientific research studies at sea and in the field, possibly in remote locations
  • Conduct routine maintenance, assembly and disassembly of oceanographic instruments and moorings
  • Sea going support of oceanographic equipment deployments and recoveries
  • Packaging of oceanographic instrumentation in preparation for shipping prior to deployment
  • Unpacking and cleaning of oceanographic instrumentation after recovery
  • Adherence to quality and health & safety policies and procedures

Required Qualifications and Experience

  • Sea-going experience, ideally in support of scientific research, offshore oil & gas exploration or passive sonar operations
  • Traditional Knowledge of the Alaskan Marine Environment
  • Experience in the deployment, recovery and mooring of oceanographic instrumentation
  • Keen attention to detail
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Ability to work in a team environment maintaining focus on work quality
  • Ability to perform physically and mentally demanding tasks
  • Willingness and ability to learn
  • Able to obtain/maintain a Marine Medical Certificate
  • Able to travel internationally and to pass a government security clearance


  • Relevant Degree or Traditional Knowledge in Marine/Environmental Science, Physics or Biology
  • Desirable: Knowledge of Underwater Acoustics and Noise Impact Assessment especially as they pertain to Marine Mammals.
  • Desirable: Current Offshore Survival and Medical Certificates
  • Desirable: Formal First Aid Training & Qualifications


  • Competitive compensation package

Please send resume to


We thank all applicants for their interest, however, only those candidates being considered for an interview will be contacted.



Scott Carr

Chief Executive Officer



202 – 32 Troop Ave.

Dartmouth,  NS,  Canada,  B3B 1Z1

T. +1.902.405.3336 ex. 1001

F. +1.902.405.3337

C. +1.902.691.0174


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National Parks hiring bioacoustic biologists

Here’s an exciting opportunity for young bioacousticians (U.S. citizens with a Bachelor’s degree) to participate in the ground-breaking acoustic monitoring and research the National Parks have been doing recently. The Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division of the National Park Service has posted a new permant job opening.

Job description —

The division —

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Study Scottish dolphins in September

This looks like a fun (and free!?) opportunity for Beam Reach alumni or prospective students to a week of field research experience in Scotland this fall.  There’s only 10 days before the application deadline, so hurry if want to learn about cetacean (mainly bottlenose dolphin) census, behavioral observation, marine mammal rescue techniques.


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Killer whale session at ASA meeting

Erica Beneze at ASA Seattle

Erica Beneze talks about clicks. (Note the reflection of co-author Jason, as well as session Chair David Mellinger.)

Beam Reach staff and alumni presented no less than six talks at the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) meeting held this week in Seattle. Setting a record that will be hard to beat, in one session on killer whale acoustics a full third of the 12 presentations involved Beam Reach! The talks ranged widely in their topics and methodologies (abstracts below). Bravo to the whole crew!

Three Beam Reach alumni were involved in this ASA meeting, up from one (Kenna Lehmann, fall 2007) at the 2008 ASA meeting in Paris.  Alumnus Erica Beneze (spring 2009) spoke about the relationship between the behavioral state of killer whales and their echolocation click rates and how it changes in versus out of areas proposed for marine protection. Alumnus Laura Madden (fall 2005) spoke first in a fisheries workshop session, comparing two ways to assess fish habitat restoration structures: non-invasive hydroacoustic methods versus the traditional electrofishing technique. Jason Wood and Peggy Foreman (fall 2006) asked whether the southern residents compensate vocally when ship noise increases using new recordings and ship track data from the Lime Kiln acoustic observatory maintained by The Whale Museum.

Val Veirs discussed ship noise signatures from a long-term study in killer whale habitat on Monday, and then introduced the concept of new underwater noise metric — the orca-weighted decibel — on Thursday.  Scott Veirs presented a model of killer whale signal masking by commercial ship noise (Prezi embedded below).

4pAB5. Masking of southern resident killer whale signals by commercial ship noise. Scott R. Veirs and Val R. Veirs

The endangered southern resident killer whales (SRKWs) emit sound to communicate with each other and to hunt fish. Communication or fishing are possible only within a distance R at which a signal can be detected.We determine detection distance by comparing the power spectra of the ambient noise and the received signal, with attention to the auditory response curve of the receiver. In Haro Strait, the center of the SRKW critical habitat, about 21 commercial ships per day, increases the ambient noise level by about 20 dB. To assess how ship noise may affect the SRKW communication and hunting, we define the fractional reduction in the zone of audibility at any location and time as the ratio of the area where signal detection is expected to occur in the increased noise regime to the maxi- mum detection area expected under ideal conditions R^2/Rmax^2. We map the decreased zones of audibility in Haro Strait during average and extreme ship noise by combining field measurements of spreading rates with source power spectra 1–100 kHz of common SRKW signals and typical ships.

1aABa8. Shipping noise signatures. Val Veirs, Scott Veirs, and Jason Wood

Throughout 2010, underwater recordings have been made of each ship passing two separate Haro Strait nodes of the hydrophone network. About 20 ships pass each day. Each ship has been identified in real time [automatic identification system (AIS)]. Measurements of received underwater noise levels and AIS variables are recorded as each ship passes the listening stations. Individual ships are observed multiple times moving in either northerly or southerly directions at times separated by a day or two and also by intervals of months. A database has been developed that contains the spectrum level of each ship 􏰃bandwidth 96 kHz at one location and 22 kHz at the other and the source level both in terms of intensity and angular distribution. Ship signatures in terms of frequency quantiles and angular distributions of emissions are quite reproducible. This database can be used to predict limitations on echolocating and vocalizing marine mammals’ active space due to specific ship noise emissions. In particular, predictions of marine mammal noise exposures in specific frequency bands can be made prior to specific vessels’ entry into an area opening the possibility of planning field observations to investigate correlations between behaviors and specific predicted noise exposures.

4pAB9. Are click rates in killer whales an indicator of group behavior and foraging hotspots? Erica L. Beneze, Jason Wood, Scott Veirs , and Val Veirs

Killer whales use sound to communicate, find food, and navigate through the ocean. Southern Resident killer whales are specialized hunters and predominantly target Chinook salmon. It is presumed that these whales use echolocation clicks to distinguish between different species of salmon and to navigate. If this is the case, then click rates should vary by group behavior as the need for locating prey and navigating change. It has also been suggested that certain areas are utilized heavily by this population for foraging (hotspots) and some of these areas have been included in NOAA’s proposed “no-go” zone. If click rates during foraging are distinct, then hotspots should be identifiable by click rates. This study tested if click rates varied by behavior state and geographic area. Group behavior was categorized into five states: foraging, traveling, milling, resting, and socializing. Click rate varied significantly by behavior state and by area. Socializing had the highest click rate followed by foraging, traveling, milling, and then resting. The Southern Residents had higher click rates in foraging hotspots.

4pAB6. Shipping noise and vocal compensation by Southern Resident killer whales: Haro Strait as a study case. Jason D. Wood (SMRU Ltd.), Peggy Foreman (Univ. of Washington), Val Veirs, and Scott Veirs

Southern resident killer whales (SRKWs) use acoustic signals to navigate, forage, and facilitate social dynamics. Researchers have published evidence that suggests SRKW compensate for increased background noise by increasing the source level and duration of their signals. Unpublished reports have also suggested that SRKW may compensate for background noise by repeating their signals and by preferentially using certain signal types. Most of this work has focused on noise from whale watching vessels or general background noise. Haro Strait is both the center of the summertime home range of the SRKW and an important shipping channel. From September 2009 to December 2010 almost 10 000 ships transited through Haro Strait with an average of 21 ships passing per day. Ship transits in Haro Strait can increase background noise by up to 20 dB and are detectable above back- ground noise for up to 30 min. This may be impacting the ability of SRKW to detect and utilize their acoustic signals. A five hydrophone array and Automatic Identification System receiver located at the Lime Kiln Lighthouse were used to record passing ships and SRKW in Haro Strait. This project investigates signal compensation strategies in SRKW in correlation with increased noise from passing ships.

4pAB7. Orca hearing weighted decibels: Underwater sound measurements appropriate to studies of Orcinus (killer whales). Val Veirs, David Bain, and Scott Veirs

In community noise studies, sound levels are usually measured under the dB-A weighting scheme, which was introduced 50 years ago in an effort to match noise measurements to the response of human listeners. Here we pro- pose an underwater noise decibel weighting scheme matched to the hearing sensitivity of killer whales (dB-O). This scheme is based on a convolution of the spectral energy of sound with the frequency-specific hearing detection thresholds of killer whales. The biological significance of noise sources may be more readily discerned if underwater sounds are quantified dB-O weighted. Further, use of this measure would emphasize the importance of broad-band measurement of noise rather than characterizing noise sources by the frequency with the peak power-spectral density and the source level of low frequency components. We compare the measures of representative noise sources, which have been recorded within the range of Southern Resi- dent Killer Whales, including small boats, ships, airguns, and mid-frequency sonar, using both flat and db-O weighted levels. While dB-O provides a more relevant characterization of noise than flat measurements e.g., for predicting noise-induced stress, more detailed measurements will be required to address masking of biological signals, whose frequency structure varies with type of phonation and direction.

4pFWa1. Evaluating freshwater habitat restoration with active acoustics. Laura E. Madden (School of Forest Resources and Appl. Res. Lab., The Penn State Univ.) and Jennifer L. Miksis-Olds (The Penn State Univ.)

The effectiveness of adding a submerged physical structure in order to increase fishery production is uncertain. Measuring fishery response to these alterations with conventional techniques is difficult. Electrofishing is a typical assessment method in freshwater fishery management and is often limited in sample size and sampling frequency. This study used active acoustic technology to evaluate the distribution and behavior of fish assemblages associated with added submerged rock structures in a reservoir currently undergoing habitat improvement. An acoustic water column profiler was deployed for three 1-week intervals at each of three replicate sites consisting of adjacent treatment areas with added rock structures and control areas without added structures. Electrofishing was conducted during each sam- pling interval. Fish abundance and behavior at each site were assessed from the volume backscatter time series and electrofishing data. Differences between areas with and without structures were compared. Combining acoustic technology with conventional assessment methods has enabled a more thorough evaluation of habitat restoration projects and helps guide the development of future conservation efforts.

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Since Beam Reach…

I was a member of the Fall 2005 class got inspired to write a blog about my experiences since the class while listening to Dave lecture about sound production anatomy in toothed whales shown on the Ustream live video. Since that class, I received a BS, an MS, and am now looking for the right opportunity to begin a career in environmental consulting.

Beam Reach solidified and focused my goals as a scientist. During the 10-week program I learned a lot about myself as someone who can work in a team, or individually, as well as gained valuable insight into the world of marine mammal science. I made wonderful professional contacts and amazing friends. In addition, it was one of the highlights of my life. It isn’t too often you get to be so close to such intelligent and unique animals, surrounded by people who are interested in the same things you are. I went home with a new drive and completed a marine biology degree with the intention to some day continue in a graduate program.

After graduating with my BS, I continued working on a project for the National Marine Fisheries Service, where I learned something about working for a federal agency who is there to protect mammals using the environmental laws. I was later hired at an environmental consulting firm, where I worked for a few months because I also got accepted into a graduate program. I began at San Diego State University in 2008 working under Ted Cranford, whose work was the subject of part of a lecture Dave Bain gave today. I initially was uncertain how I felt about switching from a strictly ecology background with an interest in bioacoustics to anatomy. But, as it turned out, I really enjoyed it. There was blood, sweat, and tears shed in between the many good times. And I do mean, literally, blood, sweat and tears. I definitely injured myself enough times to learn my lesson around most tools, the porpoises carried onto CT scanner beds were heavy to prepare and maneuver, and sometimes I just sat down to cry out of frustration. I learned that most often things did not go according to plan, but at least the preparations made adjustments much easier.

My thesis project was focused on the mandibles of toothed whales because they are an important component not only in feeding, but also sound reception. Using newer methods of analyzing morphology and shape (excluding size), we were hoping to get some insights into the evolution and function of the mandibles. We saw that the posterior region, the region implicated in sound reception appears relatively conserved suggesting that stabilizing selection is acting on that part of the mandibles. Whereas in the anterior portion, thought to be primarily for feeding, there was much more variability among all Odontocetes, or the 53% of described species I used in my study. Using some comparative phylogenetic methods, we were able to confirm that, in fact, stabilizing selection was likely occurring. The results suggested that there is an optimum shape for the posterior region of the mandibles, perhaps an optimum shape required to adequately hear underwater?

Grad. school was a pain but well worth it. I learned so much about myself: my strengths, my weaknesses and how to overcome those weaknesses. I worked with Dr. Ted Cranford, who is brilliant and while he expects a lot out of a student, he taught me to become a much better scientist. If anyone is interested in mechanisms of sound reception and production, he is someone with whom to talk. Although I truly enjoy marine mammal work, I am now looking toward a career in environmental consulting. I would love to apply that to marine mammals, but look forward to expanding my knowledge and skills to terrestrial ecosystems. I recently was hired as an on-call biologist for a firm which will provide me with the opportunity to do just that. I look forward to applying the lessons learned during Beam Reach and my other experiences, to which Beam Reach helped open the doors.

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Fall 2010 highlight video

Dave Cade recently finished editing a great highlight video with footage he, his classmates, and Beam Reach staff acquired last fall while studying endangered southern resident killer whales and their environment. We hope you enjoy the new footage! He even mixed some underwater recordings into the musical sound track.

Soundtrack credits:
(Please support these artists by visiting their sites, going to a show, or buying their music and merch!)

Every Rose Has Its Thorn by Poison
James Bond Theme by Monty Norman (?)
I’m on Fire by Bruce Springsteen
Son of a Son of a Sailor by Jimmy Buffett
Cold Beverages by G. Love & Special Sauce
New Orleans is Sinking by The Tragically Hip
I Don’t Mind by The Tobasco Donkeys

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Marine mammal acoustics post-doc(s) in Florida

This is forwarded from Ed Gerstein,; please contact him for more information.  There are 8 potential research projects listed in the ad,
from which presumably 5 postdocs will be selected.  The part of the ad covering
the potential bioacoustics project is shown here.  -Dave Mellinger

Up to 5 Postdoctoral Investigator positions are available for the two-year
period, October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2013. Postdoctoral research is
primarily conducted at FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) in
Fort Pierce with a member of the resident HBOI faculty, who serves as the
supervisor and mentor, with one or more co-mentors from other FAU colleges,
departments, and centers. Topics include marine ecosystem health, marine
natural products chemistry, marine mammal biology, and marine ecology.

Qualifications for Application: Applicants who have received their Ph.D. or
equivalent within three years of the date on which the postdoctoral
investigator position would commence, are eligible to apply. Recipients must
have completed their degree before the award can begin.  Applicants should
submit a cover letter and a statement of interest (no more than 2 pages in
length) that addresses one or more of the proposed research projects, a CV, and
three letters of recommendation. Applicants will be selected on the basis of
the strength of academic course work, research and development experience,
publication record, letters of support, and statement of interest. Applicants
are encouraged to contact any of the mentors listed for topics of interest.  An
online application must be completed to be considered for each position:, reference position number 980126. The application
deadline is March 15, 2011.

[The bioacoustics project:]
Acoustic Behavior and Ecology of Marine Mammals

Faculty mentors:
Juli Goldstein, D.V.M., HBOI

Edmund Gerstein, Ph.D., Charles E. Schmidt College of Science or

George Frisk, Ph.D., College of Engineering & Computer Science

The effects of anthropogenic noise on the health, behavior, energetics, and
ecology of marine mammals are shared concerns of the U.S. Navy, NOAA, USFWS,
and other regulatory agencies.  This postdoc will be a part of a team that
systematically studies marine mammal bioacoustics and the acoustical
propagation characteristics of marine mammal habitats in Florida. The project
will identify, measure, and model zones of masking and other direct and
cumulative impacts from anthropogenic sources on marine mammal hearing,
biology, and behavior.

This research will capitalize on the strengths of Dr. Edmund Gerstein in marine
mammal acoustics, behavior, sensory biology, and ecology; Dr. Frisk in ocean
noise propagation, computational acoustics, and modeling; and Dr. Goldstein in
veterinary medicine and marine mammal health. This postdoc will participate in
passive acoustic data collection and subsequent analysis and in the detection,
classification, and localization of marine mammal vocalizations and associated
measurements of ambient noise and signal propagation within the Indian River
Lagoon system, and other estuarine and coastal habitats along east Florida. The
postdoc should have a skill set that includes acoustic signal processing,
computer programming, and proficiency with MATLAB tools.

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$$ in Alaska to study marine ecosystem sustainability

This looks like a generous fellowship if you’d like to study marine ecosystem sustainability in Alaska for a few years. They are offering $30k+tuition/year for graduates students attending the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, for cohorts starting in 2009 through 2012. They even include health insurance and research funding.

To me, the MESAS program (Marine Ecosystem Sustainability in the Arctic and Subarctic) seems philosophically aligned with Beam Reach. They emphasize interdisciplinary research, a focus on sustainable solutions, and even provide service opportunities within local communities.

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Beam Reach video shown at Whale Museum fundraiser

The footage taken by Brett Becker and Courtney Kneipp back in 2005 keeps adding value to the community of orca advocates and scientists. It was heartening to hear the fundraiser participants ooh and ah at the simultaneous “logging” behavior of J and L pod members, as well as the synchronous chorus of calls that occurs suddenly in the last 30 seconds of the video.

If you enjoy the video, don’t hesitate to make a donation to The Whale Museum this spring. They could use some help to keep Soundwatch on the water continuously this summer…

clipped from

May 19 2009, 2:16 PM

More than 150 avid supporters turned out at Mullis Community Senior Center Saturday night for The Whale Museum’s third annual Celebration of the Orca Greeting Ceremony. By the end of the evening, the museum had raised more than $16,000 to support its education and research projects.

The popular event, which features a gourmet dinner, raffle, and silent and live auctions, was inspired by an orca greeting ceremony documented in the waters off of Hannah Heights on Oct. 4, 2004, by Dr. Scott Veirs and a group of BeamReach students.
Auctioneer Eugene Cuomo cajoled and coaxed the enthusiastic crowd into raising their fluke-shaped bidding paddles for such treats as Leslie Veirs’ “Scrumptious Ice Cream Torte” ($375)
  blog it
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Boat Life

Despite the amount of build-up, preparation and thought that went into our departure, I’ve come to find that I had very few concretely formed expectations regarding boat life. I now believe that even if I had formed expectations, they would have been thoroughly altered after the first two hours.

So many small things in life need to change to make life on a boat possible. At home, my mixed family live in a strangely laid-out mother and law house. My mom and I joke by calling our part of the house, the ‘Paris apartment’ because it is so small and compact. The concepts required for peaceful cohabitation in the ‘Paris apartment’ must be multiplied tenfold to be acceptable on the Gato Verde.

One of the first rules of a small space is keeping it clean and uncluttered, particularly in communal spaces like kitchens and bathrooms. At home that meant leaving my school books In a tucked away corner of the living room, vacuuming at least twice a week, and always, always neatening my room once day. Here, it means cleaning every communal area at least once a day, never leaving your personal belongings in a communal area and living out of a backpack.

Val, Hannah and Peter getting some work done in our main communal quarters

Val, Hannah and Peter getting some work done in our main communal quarters

We get up in the morning and the first thing after breakfast is completing our chore rotation. The breakfast dishes have to be washed, the systems and holding tanks for water sewage and fuel checked, the deck squeegeed and wiped, the galley cleaned, the floors swept and the weather and currents for the day reported on.

In chemistry, the term limiting reagent refers to the substance which determines how much of the reactants can completely turn into products. On the Gato Verde, the limiting reagent which determines whether or not we can keep sailing during the day is black water. I’m not, of course, talking about the erstwhile security contractor but about sewage which is what drives us to a fully functioning harbor more often than freshwater, food, or fuel.

Depending on your frame of reference, the Gato Verde can be accurately described as palatial or miniscule. I tend to try to classify it another way. Emotionally, the space is miniscule. Physically, the space is palatial for a boat. It’s trying to live in a place where everyone knows where everyone is and what they are doing every moment of every day. There just aren’t very many places to hide and have alone time on a boat.

All of that said, however, the experience has been incredible. The ability to travel over water, close to it, powered by it and living in it is an absolutely awe-inspiring one and something I have never been able to experience the same way. From a research perspective, it is an amazing opportunity. We tie up every night in beautiful secluded places and breathe clean, cool air, smiling into the wind, as we drift among islands covered in trees. We’ve watched otters, bald eagles, buffleheads, cormorants, harbor seals, transient orcas, Dall’s and harbor porpoises, and elephant seals all while learning loads and laughing.

Who could ask for more? It’s just that lovely.

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