SEA Days: Whale Tales

Every month, the third Saturday is a special day at Birch Aquarium: SEA Days!

As the tagline suggests, SEA Days are always full of  “Science, Exploration, and Adventure.” Visitors and members can meet a Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego scientist or other local researcher and get hands-on with science, participate in activity stations, and get creative with a thematic craft.

Name: Amanda Debich

Hometown: Bowling Green, KY

Schooling Background: 

Bachelor’s degree in Biology, minor in Chemistry from Western KY University.  Master’s degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography/UCSD

1 word to describe a characteristic a scientist must have: Patience

Dr. Debich researching whale calls at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Why are Whale Acoustics important to study?

It’s important to study whale acoustics because it gives us insight into animals’ behavior, including feeding, social, and mating patterns.  We can also use acoustics to learn how animals use a particular area and we can examine diel and seasonal patterns to study how those patterns change in relation to climate patterns and anthropogenic (human-caused) impacts.  Ultimately, the data gleaned from our studies can be used to help advise conservation managers and policy makers.

How did you decide to work on this particular issue?

My curiosity of all-things-ocean began when I was little and fell in love with the ocean during family trips to the beach during summer vacation.  I’m motivated by the fact that there’s still so much to learn about whales and dolphins and the environment in which they live!

What is the most interesting thing you have learned while studying whale acoustics?

I find it interesting that we can attribute specific call types to individual whale and dolphin species and that each of those calls is used for a different purpose.  For example, minke whales make a variety of sounds including boings (Rankin & Barlow, 2005), pulse trains (Mellinger et al, 2000), star-wars vocalizations (Gedamke et al, 2001) and even a bio-duck call (Risch et al, 2014)!


Rankin and Barlow.  2005.  Source of the North Pacific “boing” sound attributed to minke whales.  Journal of the Acoustic Society of America.

Mellinger, Carson, and Clark.  2000.  Characteristics of minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) pulse trains recorded near Puerto Rico.  Marine Mammal Science.

Gedamke, Costa, and Dunstan.  2001.  Localization and visual verification of a complex minke whale vocalization.  Journal of the Acoustic Society of America.

Risch, Gales, Deamke, Kindermann, Nowacek, Read, Siebert, Opzeeland, Van Parijs, and Friedlander.  2014.  Mysterious bio-duck sound attributed to the Antarctic minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis).  Biology Letters.

You Might Also Like

Scripps Institution of Oceanography UC San Diego