SMS 491: Sound in the Ocean

Syllabus- Fall 2012


Meeting times: Tuesdays: 14:00-15:30

Much of class time will be devoted to projects.

Instructors:  Emmanuel Boss,, and James Loftin,

Office hours: by appointment. Don't hesitate to come by during class time if we can help.

Course goal: Introduce undergraduate students to concepts in marine acoustics through a few lectures and much hands-on activities and exercises.

Student responsibilities: attend classes, be on time, maintain an active blog (write at least once a week), provide feedback via blog and via discussions with instructor, read reading material, submit assignments.

Assignments: assignment consist of a series of projects. Assignment will come with a rubric detailing what is expected of the students for a given grade. Extra credit will be awarded to projects that go above and beyond the rubric expectation.


Participation: 10% {points taken off for: 1. Not coming to class (w/o prior notice). 2. Comming late to class}

5 ~bi-weekly assignments: 50% (10% each)

Final projects: 20%.

Blog (weekly): 20%  (blog handout + rubric [PDF]). 

Reading:  Reading material will be provided as needed to fill in knowledge gaps needed for deeper understanding of concepts associated with projects and to expand our understanding of the larger issues associated with the technologies discussed.

H1N1: In the event of disruption of normal classroom activities due to an H1N1 swine flu outbreak, the format for this course may be modified to enable completion of the course.  In that event, you will be provided an addendum to this syllabus that will supersede this version.

Syllabus, subject to change, (last updated December 10, 2012):




Assignment/ additional material


Sep 4

Introduction to marine ancoustics and course mechanics [PDF].

Set up blog (PDF). Answer the following questions:

1. What is the content I would like to obtain from this class.

2. What are the skills I would like to obtain from this class.

Reading for this week (comment on in blog): Marine scoustics science tutorial @:


Sep 11

Analysis of sounds.

Using Raven viewer and Raven Lite (or other software, see links below) record and analyze sound files (PDF). Software tutorial is here.

Reading for this week (comment on in blog): sound effects on marine organisms tutorial @:



Sep 18

Some mathematics used for analysing sounds [PDF]. A hands-on class with Matlab.

Based on:

Usign Matlab analyze sounds from different musical instruments. Homework [PDF]

Reading for this week (comment on in blog): technology associated with sound @:


Sep 25

Building a hydrophon. Recording sounds under water.

Using simple electronic components obtain sound from below the surface [PDF].

Reading for this week: (comment on in blog): sounding the ocean's sectrets @:


Oct 2

Ray tracing - how sound propagates in the ocean [PDF]

Usign Matlab to learn about sound speed dependence on ocean properties. You will extract sound speed from an atlas and compute how sound ray propagate through it [m-files/data].

Homework [PDF]

Reading/listening for this week: (comment on in blog): acoustic tomography @:

Listen to the Radiolab podcast on animal communication @:


---------------------Fall break---------------------------------


Oct 16

Theory of sound scattering from a target [PDF].

Scattering of sound lab @Mick Peterson's lab, where we will observe how backscattering from spheres changes with their size and composition.

Reading/listening for this week: (comment on in blog): Peter Tyack's @: The intriguing sound of marine mamals and Julian Treasure's @: The 4 ways that sound affects us

Advanced reading (for those interested): a paper on the possibility of recognition of object by dolphins using their ecolocation capabilities (PDF)


Oct 23

Theory of sound scattering from a target [PDF].

Relevant papers (useful for homework) [zipfile]

Matlab and data files needed for today's lecture and homework [zipfile]

Reading/listening for this week: (comment on in blog): Evan Grant's @: Making sound visible through cymatics

Ever wondered how sound propagated in the oceans 100 million years ago? Read this article


Oct 30

The sonar equation and active acoustics. [PDF]

attenuation m.file

Reading/listening for this week: (comment on in blog), Julia's suggestion: marine mamals mimicing humans [art_1, art_2]

Sounding bottom habitats (movie)


Nov 6

Finish last week's lecture and transition to sources of sounds in the ocean [PDF].

Reading/listening for this week (comment on in blog): Read about NOAA's plan,to monitor sounds in the ecean (and why) and listen to some of the sounds from the sea. Read about noise polution in this article

For those interested about fish hearing and sound production [paper1] [paper2]


Nov 13

Lab: sound propagation in sediment and water (Mick Peterson's lab) + homework [PDF]. You will need Buckingham 1997 to solve the homework.

Lab sound files

Doppler [PDF]

Read about the present and future in underwater acousical observation in Howe's review paper

Two news item on relatively novel broadband acoustic systems [news1] [news2]


Nov 20

No class (Thanksgiving week)

Read before Nov. 27 class: descriptions of system 1 and system 2 that you will used in next class. Mulligan's Paper on fisheries SONAR


Nov 27

Double class: Field trip with Patrick + Class on Fisheris acoustics

Readings for blog: USGS report on mapping bathrymetry in the Gulf of Maine [PDF]. It is shorter than it seems (many figures) We will discuss these technologies in class next week.

Woody Norris talk on Ted (many of you have seen it last year) and acoustic leviation article/movie


Dec 4

Mapping the bottom + sound propagation in solids (s and p waves) [PDF]



Dec 11

Presentations of final projects.


Books (available from Emmanuel):

Dusenbery, D. B., 1992. Sensory Ecology: How Organisms Acquire and Respond to Information, Freeman.

Lurton, X., 2002. An Introduction to Underwater AcousticsPrinciples and Applications, Springer.

Medwin, H. and C. S. Clay, 1997. Fundamentals of Acoustical Oceanography, Academic Press. Out of print.

Medwin, H., 2005. Sounds in the Sea, University of Cambridge Press.

Urick R. J., 1983. Principles of Underwater Sound, McGraw-Hill.


Links for software to analyze animal sounds:

Acoustic sensors:

BioSonics-Ecosounders to measure biota, bottom type and depth.

HTI-Acoustic tags.

Nortek-ADV's, ADCPs.

RDI-Profiling doppler current meter

Simrad-Ecosounders for fisheries and bottom research.

SonarData-Ecosounders for fisheries and bottom research.

Sontek-YSI-ADV's, ADCPs.

Other relevant links:

Acoustical Society of America:

Hot topics in Acoustical Oceanography:

"Sounding Out the Oceans Secrets" by the National Academy of Sciences

IEEE Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control Society (UFFC):

Education (and some science) links on underwater sound:

Discovery of sound in the sea (great general resource, from URI):

Sound in the Sea tutorial:

Research in underwater sound:

IEEE ultrasonics links:


Fisheries Acoustics Research:


Acoustics ocean lab,



Boss & Loftin, 2012
This page was last edited on December 10, 2012