The clamour of ships, oil and gas exploration and other human endeavours are adding a level of noise to the ocean that is potentially problematic for acoustically-specialised species such as dolphins.
Sarah Marley is researching the acoustic environment of coastal dolphins and investigating how they respond to an increasingly noisy ocean. The findings will help inform suitable management strategies to ensure a healthier marine environment.
As a child growing up on the Scottish coast, Marley would watch dolphins from shore, even recording their behaviour in her diary. This fascination inspired an undergraduate degree in zoology, a master degree in marine mammal science, and now, the beginnings of PhD in Applied Physics. Marley says her research is allowing her to explore the ocean in “the same manner as dolphins”, using marine acoustics.
Her passion for the ocean is matched only by her passion for science communication. In 2014, the first year of her PhD, Marley was crowned the Trans-Tasman Three Minute Thesis Champion for the presentation of her thesis.
The annual competition gives research students from Australia and South-East Asia three minutes to deliver a compelling presentation on their thesis to a non-specialist audience.
“The competition gave me the opportunity to try my science communication skills against other outreach enthusiasts, and the chance to give people a whole new perspective on the ocean as a complex acoustic environment,” Marley says.
Marley’s research is supported by Curtin’s Centre for Marine Science and Technology. The Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment, Australian Acoustical Society and Swan River Trust have supported field components.