Acoustic characterization of sensors used for marine environmental monitoring

Emma Cotter* (Corresponding Author), Paul Murphy, Christopher Bassett, Benjamin Williamson, Brian Polagye

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Active acoustic sensors are widely used in oceanographic and environmental studies. Although many have nominal operating frequencies above the range of marine mammal hearing, they can produce out-of-band sound that may be audible to marine mammals. Acoustic emissions from four active acoustic transducers were characterized and compared to marine mammal hearing thresholds. All four transducers had nominal operating frequencies above the reported upper limit of marine mammal hearing, but produced measurable sound below 160 kHz. A spatial map of the acoustic emissions of each sonar is used to evaluate potential effects on marine mammal hearing when the transducer is continuously operated from a stationary platform. Based on the cumulative sound exposure level metric, the acoustic emissions from the transducers are unlikely to cause temporary threshold shifts in marine mammals, but could affect animal behavior. The extent of audibility is estimated to be, at most, on the order of 100 m.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-215
Number of pages11
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Early online date16 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019

Bibliographical note

The authors wish to acknowledge Benjamin Brand for his assistance with the Acoustic Test Facility set-up, Jessica Noe for her assistance designing sonar mounts, James Joslin for his assistance with cables for sonar operation, and Mark Wood for his assistance with icListen hydrophones. This study would not have been possible without their contributions.

This work was funded by the US Department of Energy [grant number DE-EE0007827]. Emma Cotter is supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship [grant number DGE-1762114].


  • Active acoustic transducers
  • Marine mammal hearing
  • Marine mammal monitoring
  • Underwater acoustics


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