All a matter of perspective

I’ve just finished up a week in Pittsburgh, PA at an Acoustics Society conference. Because sound and acoustics intersect so many fields, Society meetings are some of the most diverse gatherings of disciplines under one roof – with sessions on medical imaging, architecture, musical acoustics, noise control, speech and language, acoustical surgery, and of course animal bioacoustics. And as it is a professional society that influences policy, participants include industry stakeholders, regulators, military, academics, and a few folks like me who are watching the pool.

I’ve been a society member for 15 years and have seen many changes and gotten to know other members across disciplines, including military and industrial members who are typically “on the other side” of the ocean noise discussion. Being a Society member and attending conferences gives me “collegial” opportunities to converse with members who would otherwise be antagonistic to our mission.

This week, fresh off a reconnaissance trip to an Offshore Technologies Conference I collared a colleague from the oil industry to express my concerns about the rapid influx of high-frequency underwater acoustical communication systems making their way into the deepwater oil production soundfields. In her opinion she wasn’t concerned that marine mammals would be exposed to excessive sound levels from these devices because they’d “definitely hear it and stay away.”

Her comment was phrased from the perspective of animals being exposed to noise above regulatory thresholds, triggering regulation. Until I suggested it, it didn’t occur to her that these animals’ acoustical habitats were being colonized by industrial noise.

I guess it’s all just a matter of perspective…

High frequency acoustic communications. Illus: Andy Lovas

High frequency acoustic communications. Illus: Andy Lovas