Discussion on Education and Training

Chairman: Chuck Greene
Panel Members: Steve Brandt, Rudi Strickler

Human Resources Development in Bioacoustical Oceanography

Bioacoustical oceanographic technology will contribute to the achievement of GLOBEC objectives in direct proportion to the size and quality of its user group. At present, the user group is small and training is done on a relatively informal basis. In the next few years, it is imperative that we begin to develop a more formal training program which will be available to the whole ocean sciences community and will provide rigorous, high-quality training to the next generation of bioacoustical oceanographers. The alternative is a situation in which the technological needs of GLOBEC overwhelm the ocean science community's ability to respond.

The foundation for a formal training program in bioacoustical oceanography could be a basic graduate-level course modeled after the bio-optical oceanography course taught at Friday Harbor Laboratories. This course has provided rigorous training in bio-optical oceanography for dozens of graduate students over the last seven or eight years. In turn, these students have gone on to become the critical mass for bio-optical oceanography's rapid advancement and acceptance within the biological oceanographic community. The potential for a similar course in bioacoustical oceanography is great; a possible course outline might include the following topics.

The bioacoustical oceanography basic course should emphasize: 1) a practical, "hands on" approach to learning; 2) an equal emphasis on acoustical methods and biological oceanographic applications; and 3) exposure to the expertise and instruction of visiting lecturers from a variety of institutions. This multi-institutional aspect of the course is something that should be encouraged in other elements of the overall training program.

The next logical element in the training of graduate students is a full degree program in bioacoustical oceanography. It was suggested that one approach to such a program might include having students, regardless of home institution, traveling to other institutions for portions of their graduate education. A multi-institutional education of this type, although unconventional, would offer the following benefits:

  1. Students would be exposed to greater expertise in a variety of subject areas critical to their education as bioacoustical oceanographers;

  2. Students would develop a sense of belonging to a closely-knit network of well-trained bioacoustical oceanographers; and

  3. Students might be supported through a training grants program that would be independent of their home institution.

After graduate school, there is a critical need to support the new or continued training of postdoctoral fellows in bioacoustical oceanography. It was recommended that a postdoctoral program in bioacoustical oceanography be initiated within the biological oceanography section at NSF comparable to the one recently initiated in biotechnology. It was further suggested that NOAA and ONR be encouraged to support similar postdoctoral programs.

At the level of the working professional, mechanisms must be developed so that basic as well as advanced training in bioacoustical oceanography becomes more readily available. Short-term (1-2 week) workshops may meet some of these needs, but a longer term (0.5-1 year) "mentorship" program might be necessary for those professionals interested in retooling themselves as independent, competent practitioners of bioacoustical oceanography. NOAA, NSF, and ONR appear to be the most appropriate funding sources to support professional training grants and fellowships of this nature.