WHOI Receives $1M Grant to Build Acoustic Telescope

WOODS HOLE – A first-of-its-kind acoustic telescope is being developed by scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The new instrument will allow researchers to map and the study the underwater soundscape.

The acoustic telescope will give scientists the ability to focus in on individual sounds originating from long distances and observe waves, rainfall and earthquakes that produce acoustic signatures.

Unlike light, radio waves and other forms of electromagnetic radiation, soundwaves can travel great distances through seawater.

Like animals that have evolved to use sound to communicate, find food and navigate underwater, scientists have learned that they can use sound to observe and probe the depths.

The interdisciplinary project will be led by WHOI acoustic scientists Ying-Tsong “Y.T.” Lin and Daniel Zitterbart, project manager Paul Matthias, and WHOI Mooring Operations Group Leader John Kemp and will include scientists, engineers, and technicians representing a wide range of disciplines from inside and outside WHOI.

Its operation will leverage the existing infrastructure of the NSF-funded Ocean Observatories Initiative Pioneer Array 100 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. This project will transform the way in which researchers listen in on the deep ocean environment and decode the information embedded in the underwater sound field.

The project received $1 million in grant funding from the W.M. Keck Foundation.

“We are very fortunate to have the support of the Keck Foundation in designing and building the acoustic telescope,” said Lin. “By integrating our observations of biological, geophysical, meteorological, and other measurements, we will ultimately be able to assemble a more complete and holistic acoustic picture of our ocean.”

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