In December 2019, Dr. Jennifer Schneider, a professor in the Social Sciences Department, traveled to Barcelona, Spain to participate in the World Marine Mammal Conference. Dr. Schneider presented her research titled Sound Propagation Changes Forman-like Spectral Peaks in Humpback Whales. The goal of this study was to see if the cues that terrestrial animals use to identify size are reliable in marine environments.
Related to her research findings, Dr. Schneider shared, “When you hear a dog growling you can guess how big the dog is based on the frequency of the sounds. Dogs with small throats produce higher frequency sounds than dogs with big throats. The timbre of the sounds is also dependent on the size of the dog. The same thing may be true of whales. However, the timbre of sounds changes when traveling long distances through the water. I performed a series of experiments which showed that the timbre of sounds change so much that if you heard a whale half a kilometer away and then the same whale a kilometer away, it would sound like two whales of different sizes. Therefore, in order to determine size based on what was heard, you would have to be pretty close to the whale.”