Underwater sounds

Sonic perspectives on oceanic ecologies

Half day seminar by Sound Environment Centre at Lund University & Åsa Stjerna - PhD and Sound Artist, University of Gothenburg

Underwater sound

Increased human activity in and around the seas - such as coastal wind turbines, increased maritime transportation, and the exploitation of the Arctic - have over the past decades had a major impact on marine underwater environments. For this seminar we are inviting researchers of various disciplines to give us a status on, how this activity effects marine life and underwater ecologies. There is no doubt, that this topic of research is of great importance in the future protection of the oceans around us. None the less, it is also an area of research that, to a large extend, is still unknown for the general public.


The Soundscape of the Marine Environment
Peter Sigray (Marine Engineer, KTH, Stockholm)
The ocean is full of sound. Some of them are natural such as sound from rain and waves and some are biological such as animal communication. All sounds in the ocean constitutes the sound environment and the marine species therein are evolutionary adapted to live in this cacophony. But with the introduction of anthropogenic noise the sound “equilibrium” has changed. Human made noise is often very load and can affect large areas, imparing the living conditions, which ultimately can have an effect on population level. The propagation of underwater sound is complex and different from air acoustics. A brief introduction on underwater acoustics will be presented. Acoustic concepts such as wave propagation, channeling, sources and decibels will be discussed. Results from large scale modelling of the Baltic Sea will also be presented.

Noise from Commercial Ships and Effects on Fish and Invertebrates
Mathias Andersson - Marine Biologist, Swedish Defense Research Agency
Commercial ships are the dominant sound source in our oceans. The sound from ships raises the ambient sound and can induce behaviour disturbance, stress and effect animals’ communication possibilities. Several monitoring projects is running to estimate the sound level in the seas and numerous experiments demonstrate a variation of effects from ship noise on fish and invertebrates.

Ocean Noise and the Tuning of Marine Space
Max Ritts - Environmental Geographer, SLU
In the last 15 years, a scientific consensus has emerged around the biological hazards of “ocean noise” -- aka anthropogenic sound. The vulnerability of acoustically sensitive humpback and killer whales in particular has forced industrial shipping proponents (the dominant producers of ocean noise) into acknowledging the issue as an economic risk. In this talk, I argue that the story of ocean noise is not simply a story of new sounds in the ocean or more of them; rather, ocean noise is part of a world-historical shift in the very nature of the oceans, with profound consequence to the ways various forms of life listen and communicate through sound. Drawing from various materials (interviews, textual analysis, ethnographic fieldwork), I engage ocean noise as a "biopolitical triad" of animal injury, industrial technoscience, and economic efficiency; and underwater sound as a medium that, despite widespread ecological concern, is being increasingly appropriated through industrial acts of eco-sensory 'tuning'.

Porpoises and Human Noise: a Baltic Perspective
Julia Carlström - Curator, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm
Harbour porpoises have a wide hearing range and a low reaction threshold to noise, which makes them sensitive to human noise. The Baltic Proper harbour porpoise population is listed as Critically Endangered, and only a few hundred individuals remain. Next to bycatches and environmental pollutants, underwater noise from human activities is a major threat to the survival of the population.

Transforming Anthropocene Into An Artistic Experience
Åsa Stjerna - Sound Artist, Researcher, GU
Scientific information about the marine underwater environment is gathered via acoustic underwater technologies. The sonic raw data extracted through these technologies are almost never exposed as sound, but mainly transferred to as mathematical models or visualizations. This presentation addresses the sonic raw data's unused potential, and art’s capacity transforming the raw data's information into an artistic domain, making experienceable crucial environmental information normally exceeding the human perception.

Peter Sigray

Peter Sigray is a senior researcher at The Royal Technical Institute in Stockholm (KTH). He research is mainly focused on underwater acoustics and electromagnetics. He has developed several novel instruments for example the particle motion sensor and the electromagnetic sledge (SEMLA). The former is used to measure the acoustics utilizing the same concept as the ear of a fish and the latter is used to map electromagnetic fields generated by sub-marine cables.

Mathias Andersson

Mathias Andersson is fish ecologist and bio-acoustician that studies the effect from underwater sound on marina animals. He is routinely out at sea and performing sound measurements and experiments and participates in national and international expert groups that are preparing scientific background information to agencies and managers.

Max Ritts

Max Ritts  is a Postdoctoral Fellow at SLU-Alnarp, and received his PhD at the University of British Columbia. He has published on various topics in environmental geography, including political ecology, research methodology, and marine politics. The materials from this talk are part of an in-process book project, provisionally titled "Under Pressure.

Julia Carlström

Julia Carlström works with harbour porpoise ecology and conservation at the Swedish Museum of Natural History. She is responsible for the Swedish acoustic monitoring programme of harbour porpoises, and gives expert advice to managing authorities on harbour porpoises in Swedish waters.

Åsa Stjerna

Åsa Stjerna is a Swedish installation artist and researcher, working with sound and listening as her media of exploration. In several projects Stjerna has been involved in cross-disciplinary scientific cooperations spanning from research of the melting northern cap —to how human noise in the Baltic affect the fish  addressing global effects of human impact in our oceans. Through these projects Stjerna has specifically investigated  art's capacity to transform information of global relevance into an embodied experience, approaching the global and the local as always mutually connected.