Acoustical Ocean Ecology

Kelly Benoit-Bird, Principal Investigator

Principal Investigator Kelly Benoit-Bird and Research Specialist Chad Waluk work on a sonar transducer system.

In the ocean, most resources are unevenly distributed and highly dynamic. The Acoustical Ocean Ecology Group investigates how animals respond to constantly changing environments, including how animals find dinner without becoming dinner themselves and the way group behaviors like schooling or cooperation affect predator-prey interactions.

To study the complex, four-dimensional interactions that occur beneath the water’s surface, we use acoustic technologies (often called sonar). This is a form of active acoustics, meaning we send out specific sound waves and then listen to how they reflect back, allowing us to “see” the locations and movements of animals beneath the ocean’s surface.

Our lab also develops and applies new forms of active acoustic techniques and integrates established technologies into novel platforms. A big part of our work is to combine these tools with other techniques, including underwater cameras, animal tagging, and behavioral modeling.

Through our efforts, we’re contributing to the understanding of how patchiness—the variability in resources over space—is critical to how animals from plankton to whales make a successful living.

Acoustic instruments

To gather acoustical data, the Acoustical Ocean Ecology Group uses several instruments and vehicles.

Acoustic fingerprinting

By improving our catalog of known acoustic signatures, we can use acoustics to get much higher resolution understanding of the ocean.

Acoustic community ecology

Acoustics enable our lab to look at whole ecosystems in order to study animal interactions and group behaviors.



Upper-ocean systems
Acoustical ocean ecology
Acoustic instruments
Acoustic fingerprinting
Acoustic community ecology
Acoustics in the news
Biological oceanography
Global modes of sea surface temperature
Krill hotspots in the California Current
Nitrate supply estimates in upwelling systems
Chemical sensors
Chemical data
Land/Ocean Biogeochemical Observatory in Elkhorn Slough
Listing of floats
SOCCOM float visualization
Periodic table of elements in the ocean
Biogeochemical-Argo Report
Profiling float
Interdisciplinary field experiments
Ecogenomic Sensing
Genomic sensors
Field experiments
Harmful algal blooms (HABs)
Water quality
Environmental Sample Processor (ESP)
ESP Web Portal
In the news
Ocean observing system
Midwater research
Midwater ecology
Deep-sea squids and octopuses
Food web dynamics
Midwater time series
Respiration studies
Zooplankton biodiversity
Seafloor processes
Revealing the secrets of Sur Ridge
Exploring Sur Ridge’s coral gardens
Life at Sur Ridge
Mapping Sur Ridge
Biology and ecology
Effects of humans
Ocean acidification, warming, deoxygenation
Lost shipping container study
Effects of upwelling
Faunal patterns
Previous research
Technology development
High-CO2 / low-pH ocean
Benthic respirometer system
Climate change in extreme environments
Station M: A long-term observatory on the abyssal seafloor
Station M long-term time series
Monitoring instrumentation suite
Sargasso Sea research
Antarctic research
Geological changes
Arctic Shelf Edge
Continental Margins and Canyon Dynamics
Coordinated Canyon Experiment
CCE instruments
CCE repeat mapping data
Monterey Canyon: A Grand Canyon beneath the waves
Submarine volcanoes
Mid-ocean ridges
Magmatic processes
Volcanic processes
Explosive eruptions
Hydrothermal systems
Back arc spreading ridges
Near-ridge seamounts
Continental margin seamounts
Non-hot-spot linear chains
Eclectic seamounts topics
Margin processes
Hydrates and seeps
California borderland
Hot spot research
Hot-spot plumes
Magmatic processes
Volcanic processes
Explosive eruptions
Volcanic hazards
Hydrothermal systems
Flexural arch
Coral reefs
ReefGrow software
Eclectic topics
Submarine volcanism cruises
Volcanoes resources
Areas of study
Bioluminescence: Living light in the deep sea
Microscopic biology research
Open ocean biology research
Seafloor biology research
Automated chemical sensors
Methane in the seafloor
Volcanoes and seamounts
Hydrothermal vents
Methane in the seafloor
Submarine canyons
Earthquakes and landslides
Ocean acidification
Physical oceanography and climate change
Ocean circulation and algal blooms
Ocean cycles and climate change
Past research
Molecular ecology
Molecular systematics
SIMZ Project
Bone-eating worms
Gene flow and dispersal
Molecular-ecology expeditions
Ocean chemistry of greenhouse gases
Emerging science of a high CO2/low pH ocean
Zhang, Y., Kieft, B., Hobson, B.W., Raanan, B.Y., Urmy, S., Pitz, K.J., Preston, C.M., Roman, B., Benoit-Bird, K.J., Birch, J.M., Chavez, F.P., Scholin, C.A., (2021). Persistent sampling of vertically migrating biological layers by an autonomous underwater vehicle within the beam of a seabed-mounted echosounder. IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering, 46: 497-508.
Urmy, S.S., Benoit-Bird, K.J., (2021). Fear dynamically structures the ocean’s pelagic zone. Current Biology, 31: 5086-5092.e3.
Benoit-Bird, K.J., Waluk, C.M., (2021). Remote acoustic detection and characterization of fish schooling behavior. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 150: 4329-4342.
Sullivan, J.M., McManus, M.A., Cheriton, O.M., Benoit-Bird, K.J., Goodman, L., Wang, Z., Ryan, J., Stacey, M., Holliday, D.V., Greenlaw, C., Moline, M.A., McFarland, M., (2010). Layered organization in the coastal ocean: An introduction to planktonic thin layers and the LOCO project. Continental Shelf Research, 30: 1-6.
Hoving, H.J.T., Gilly, W.F., Markaida, U., Benoit-Bird, K.J., -Brown, Z.W., Daniel, P., Field, J.C., Parassenti, L., Liu, B., Campos, B., (2013). Extreme plasticity in life-history strategy allows a migratory predator (jumbo squid) to cope with a changing climate. Global Change Biology, 19: 2089-2103.