Sound Science in the Swan

On Monday, I gave a presentation about dolphin acoustics in the Swan River at a free public seminar called “Sound Science in the Swan“, supported by Acoustics2017, the annual conference of the Australian Acoustical Society.  Over 60 people attended the two-hour seminar, with the audience containing both scientists and members of the public.

The evening kicked off with an introduction by the organiser, Dr Miles Parsons from Centre for Marine Science and Technology (CMST) at Curtin University, who explained what sound is and how animals use it underwater.  I then demonstrated this through my interactive Soundscape Game, where the audience members are each allocated the role of a different underwater sound source and produce them together to create a ‘soundscape’.

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Me yelling at some audience members to “make snapping shrimp noises” (Photo: Sylvia Parsons)

Miles then explained more about some of the anthropogenic (man-made) sound sources in the Swan River system, including things like vessels, pile-driving, airplanes, drones, and even human swimmers!

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Miles presenting experiments examining sounds produced by swimmers (Photo: Sylvia Parsons)

This was followed by Dr Iain Parnum (also of CMST) who explained his work using underwater acoustics for the purposes of habitat mapping within the Swan.

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Iain using acoustics to ‘see’ underwater (Photo: Sylvia Parsons)

After the break, I was up to present about dolphins!  I started with examples of the different sounds dolphins make and why underwater sound is vital for their survival.  I then applied this to the Swan River, by showing it as a busy, noisy environment – and therefore rather challenging for dolphins!  However, as I explained, my research shows that the dolphins don’t necessarily leave noisy areas, although they might have strategies for dealing with them.

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Me showing some theodolite tracks of dolphins and vessels within the Swan River (Photo: Sylvia Parsons)

I was then able to present some research on dolphins and pile-driving, on behalf of my PhD supervisor Dr Chandra Salgado Kent, who was unable to attend that evening.

The evening finished back with Miles, who spoke about mulloway and some of the research surrounding the calls made by these fish.

A thoroughly enjoyable way to spend an evening!

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