Marine Mammal Biology 2 (Advanced Seminar):

Marine Mammals and Sound


Sean Todd (plus guest lecturers where available)

How to find me

Office: Turrets Annex, 3rd floor

Office hours: Wednesdays 9.00&endash;11.30am, or by appointment

Phone: ext. 265


Course web-page:

This site includes lecture outlines, syllabi, and useful web links, as well as other important class information such as schedules as they are updated, and class project data. Make sure you visit it!


Tues, Fri 10.00-11.25am (Seafox), bring Coffee! Plus the occasional fieldtrip by arrangement for class project

Course Description

This advanced seminar class examines the role of sound in the biology of marine mammals. We start with an examination of the behavior of sound underwater, covering concepts that include sound production, propagation and reception, SONAR equations, and noise. We continue with a review of how marine mammals, with a specific focus on cetaceans, use sound to communicate, sense and orient within their environment. We conclude with a bioacoustic examination of specific management problems in marine mammal science. Topics covered in this final part will include, but will not be limited to: marine mammal fishery interactions, shipstrikes, effects of industrial noise, whale song and dialects, baleen whale orientation, and marine mammal strandings. Classes will be run in seminar style, reading intensive, with students responsible for leading discussions and topics. Evaluation is by class participation, two term papers and (possibly) a class project. Although no lab period is set for this class, students are expected to invest some time outside of class for the purpose of possible class projects. Class size 5-10 students. Advanced. ES. Lab fee $40.


Course text:

Richardson WJ, Greene Jr. CR, Malme CI, Thomson DH (1995) Marine Mammals and Noise. Academic Press, San Diego. Available from Shermans, or online at

…plus readers and reserve readings


About the class

I intend to run this course as a seminar-style learning environment with plenty of time for discussion. To do this it is essential that all students make an effort to participate in all class discussions and readings.

For the first few weeks I will lead a discussion topic as dictated by the syllabus below. However, once I am satisfied that the class has a good grasp on the physics and biology of the subject matter, I would like to move into a second phase where students choose specific marine mammal bioacoustic topics that interest them. Such topics might include the bioacoustics of marine mammal fishery interactions, the bioacoustics of shipstrike, marine mammal strandings, and Effects of noise. We will decide a schedule for student-led presentation of these topics probably by the 2-3rd week of class. Running a discussion topic will involve:

Each student will do the above twice. The student must choose one of their of their topics to write up as a second term paper, which is due by the end of term, written in a format appropriate for the journal Marine Mammal Science.

Students not leading the discussion for that week are expected to:




Term paper on one of the led discussion topics


Weekly questions and answer assignments


Class participation


Presentation (using the best of the two)


Participation in class projects


A general scheme for assessing student presentations can be found here

Audit policy for Marine Mammal Biology 2

Audits are welcome in the class. However, students attending as audits will be expected to complete some assignments to a satisfactory grade (pass/fail) in order to receive an audit credit on their transcript. For this reason, students that wish to take this class as an audit must:

Audit students are not required to complete a term paper or lead a second discussion group.