Distinguished Lectureship - Speakers

Dr. William Wilcock

School of Oceanography,
University of Washington,
Seattle, Washington

Whale Seismology

Curriculum Vitae

William Wilcock is the Jerome M. Paros Endowed Chair in Sensor Networks in the School of Oceanography at the University of Washington.  His research interests include using geophysical techniques to understand seafloor volcanoes and hydrothermal systems, developing new tools for seafloor geodesy at subduction zones, exploiting cabled seafloor observatories for scientific studies and earthquake and tsunami early warning, and studying baleen whales using opportunistic recordings by seafloor seismometers.  He holds a B.A. in Earth Sciences from Cambridge University, an M.Sc. in Exploration Geophysics from Imperial College, a Ph.D. in Marine Geology and Geophysics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology / Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in Oceanography and was a postdoctoral scholar at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.

Large whales are amongst the most captivating animals on Earth, but they are challenging to study because they are too big to hold in tanks, they spend most of their time underwater, and individuals can range over thousands of miles. Recording their vocalizations is one of only a handful of tools available to scientists, but such data can be expensive to obtain, particularly in the deep ocean. The two largest whale species, blue and fin whales, create very loud repetitive sounds at frequencies of about 20 Hz that overlap those of earthquakes, and they are commonly recorded by the networks of seafloor seismometers deployed for geophysical studies. Whale recordings on seafloor seismometers are sometimes viewed as a bothersome source of noise that obscures seismic signals, but beginning with some pioneering work in the 1990s, a small but growing community of marine seismologists are taking advantage of earthquake monitoring experiments in the oceans to study blue and fin whales. Many of the seismological techniques to locate earthquakes and determine their size and frequency characteristics can be adapted to whales. In this talk, I will describe the origin of my own interest in whale seismology and discuss ongoing efforts to exploit extensive seismic data sets in the northeast Pacific and elsewhere for whale seismology.

Date Venue
Jan 26 2021, 7:00 PM Southwestern Oregon Community College Virtual Event
Mar 25 2021, 7:00 PM North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences Virtual Event
Jun 08 2021, 6:30 PM Houston Museum of Natural Science Virtual Event