Sound and Challenge 2- Protect and restore ecosystems and biodiversity

Light does not travel as far underwater as sound. Many animals thus rely on sound for communicating or sensing (echolocation). Even unintentional sounds (‘cues”) such as the walking of a sea urchin , can be detected and used to characterize ecosystems and biodiversity.

Listen to a damselfish. Source: NOAA PMEL Acoustics Program

Soundscapes can indicate the health of an ecosystem or habitat, such as coral reefs. Acoustics can also be a tool to help enrich degraded habitats- playbacks of sounds recorded from healthy habitats has been shown to increase restoration of degraded reefs affected by bleaching, by attracting reef-building organisms (link).

Multiple endorsed Ocean Decade Projects address Challenge 2 ( link). Explore the Mesoamerican Reef and GLUBS in the exhibit to learn more.

Sounds produced by humans, such as from ships, change the natural soundscape. Under Challenge 2, we also focus on restoring protected areas to “natural” sound levels, with measures to mitigate noise from human activities. Standardized metrics of recording and analysis are needed to compare sound levels across regions and temporal scales.

Explore soundscapes of marine sanctuaries from NOAA here.

Sound and Challenge 3- Sustainably feed the global population

Active acoustics, the production of sounds and analysis of returning “echoes” is an important tool in fisheries to track and estimate target fish populations (link)

Building knowledge of healthy soundscapes can assist in tracking sustainability of a changing environment.

The Ocean Decade endorsed project Global Library of Underwater Biological Sounds tackles Challenge 3 (link)

Take a look at more areas of Challenge 3 from the UN Ocean Decade: Ocean Decade Challenge 3: Sustainably Feed the Global Population (

Sound and Challenge 4- Develop a sustainable and equitable ocean economy

Industrialization of the ocean through blue economy initiatives can introduce sounds from human (anthropogenic) activities. Pile driving from offshore wind development, shipping, and seismic airguns all create sounds, facilitating the need for ocean sound best practices. The extent of disturbance to various fauna as well as mitigating solutions is an area in which strong science is needed to inform relevant policy, and support a sustainable ocean.

Take a closer look at the links between offshore wind, underwater noise, marine life and policy from the U.S. Offshore Wind Synthesis of Environmental Effects Research brief on noise

At the same time, new infrastructure provides opportunities to incorporate new sensors, both acoustic and oceanographic, that would better allow understanding and monitoring of ocean health around these new installations.  

Sound and Challenge 5- unlock ocean-based solutions to climate change

Because sound parameters are linked to temperature, sound is an important tool to determine temperature and bathymetry in oceanography (Learn more from DOSITS).

Additionally, environmental features related to climate change are detected by passive acoustic monitoring systems. For example, the Artic contains one of the noisiest soundscapes due to glacial calving (link). As ice melts, how sound propagates (travels) through the water changes, altering the soundscape. More research will inform the impacts of climate change on the soundscape, including impacts on the movement, distribution, and behavior of fauna.

Iceberg Sounds, Source: NOAA PMEL Acoustics Program

Research in acoustics continues to uncover new information and approaches to understand and tackle climate change. For example, by developing a new acoustic sensor, researchers at University of Texas will be able to assess how carbon is stored in seagrass beds (link)

Learn more about acoustics and climate change from the Ocean Decade Research Programme on the Maritime Acoustic Environment (here).

Sound and Challenge 6- Increase community resilience to ocean hazards

Hydrophones can detect the acoustic signatures of ocean hazards such as underwater landslides, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions (link).  

Take a look at more areas of Challenge 6 from the UN Ocean Decade: Ocean Decade Challenge 6: Increase community resilience to ocean hazards (  

Sound and Challenge 7- Expand the global ocean observing system

Ocean Sound is a new Essential Ocean Variable (EOV) recognized by the Global Ocean Observing System. The Ocean Sound EOV is a cross-disciplinary variable with Physics, Climate and Biology, and Ecosystems. The Implementation Plan describes the acoustic parameters of the EOV, and what information can be gained from passive acoustic recordings.

Meeting Challenge 7 will involve providing the technical capability to add sensors to observing systems, support for emerging networks across regions, and support for standardized data archiving that is accessible and aligned with the acoustic products outlined in the Ocean Sound EOV, such as the hybrid millidecade.

Multiple Projects endorsed by Ocean Decade use a form of the Ocean Sound EOV in their efforts- Inquire within the exhibit!

Sound and Challenge 8- Create a digital representation of the ocean

More research is needed to fully understand the properties of underwater acoustics. Endorsed Ocean Decade Projects are researching and developing new analytical tools to facilitate deeper understanding of different aspects of the ocean. Explore the Numerical Seabed Project in this exhibit to learn more about active acoustics, modeling, and the seabed.

Development of open source and/or freely available models and software support research in underwater acoustic sound propagation. These tools combined with appropriate environmental inputs and source functions can be used as a basis to represent ocean soundscapes. Examples of these can be found in the links:

OALIB tools

Sound and Challenge 9- Skills, knowledge, and technology for all

Acoustics is a field of science that is inherently interdisciplinary, touching upon areas such as speech and psychology, engineering, the arts, and oceanography. There are many areas in which greater scientific knowledge can be of use, however, acoustics can still be thought of as very specific. Greater training and workforce development is needed, as well as improved capacity to conduct and use acoustic technology and knowledge. A consensus on needed metrics of acoustics, support for comparable data processing and databases, open source tools, and accessible technology are all needed within this challenge to ensure both a strong workforce related to acoustics, and global capability to support this area of science.

Efforts to create accessible databases, low cost hydrophones, and open access tools create opportunities to incorporate knowledge from acoustics by users, and the ability to conduct acoustic research to broader communities.

Explore the Ocean World of Sound:MesoAmerican Reef in this exhibit to learn more about training and capacity building efforts.

Sound and Challenge 1- understand and beat marine pollution

Many think of debris or chemicals when they think of pollutants. What a pollutant is varies depending on who you ask. However Challenge 1 is connected to acoustics because many consider human- introduced noise to be a pollutant. Related to Challenge 2, there are many efforts to research, understand, and combat noise, including in the Ocean Decade.

Explore the exhibit to learn more about underwater noise from endorsed Projects!

Learn more about Challenge 1 from the Ocean Decade here:

Sound and Challenge 10 – Change humanity’s relationship with the Ocean

Endorsed projects have found success in connecting communities to the Ocean through soundscapes. Explore the Ocean World of Sound:MesoAmerican Reef in this exhibit to learn more about their efforts to connect coastal communities to life within the ocean.

Click the logos to learn more about the event hosts