Summer Newsletter (1 of 2!)

Summer 2023 Newsletter (1 of 2)

Hello friends, family, and supporters!

We know it has been a while since you heard from us, and for this we would like to apologize! Indeed, for some of you this will be the first newsletter you have received from us! It has been a very busy year indeed, and as our plans for 2023 begin to shape up we wanted to reach out and update you on what we have been up to at Sound Science.

There has been an awful lot going on recently, and because of that we decided to send you two newsletters instead of one. In this first one, we update you on the last year or so.

In several weeks we will fill you in on our plans for 2023 and beyond!

In this first newsletter you can read about:

  1. Sound Science and our new National Geographic Explorer!
  2. Our 2022 summer field season
  3. Fathom at the Emmy’s!
  4. Our burgeoning relationship with American Queen Voyages
  5. The Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference

Before diving into the newsletter, we’re pleased to announce that our new website is now online! We have been hard at work over the past several months creating our new look. We hope you enjoy it! To have a look at the new website, follow this link or go to

1. Sound Science and our new National Geographic Explorer!

Our Founder and Director Dr. Michelle Fournet has been made an official National Geographic Explorer! This is a prestigious label and we are all thrilled about what this means for Michelle and for Sound Science. As part of this news, Sound Science has also been given a grant by National Geographic to fund our ‘Individual Variation’ research. We will go into more detail about this program in our next newsletter in several weeks. For now, this is a very exciting, comprehensive, and multi-disciplinary program which uses past and present data. It seeks to better understand variation in sound between individual humpback whales. This is crucial towards better understanding how humpback whales communicate with one another, and we are thrilled that National Geographic have provided a grant towards it.

In their own words, National Geographic describe their explorers as:

‘National Geographic Explorers are exceptional individuals in their fields who receive funding and support from the Society to illuminate and protect our world through their work in science, exploration, education, and storytelling. 

They are driven by something bigger than themselves. They see the difference between the world as it is and as it could be, and they make a choice to do something about it with courage and conviction.’

We believe this description fits Michelle perfectly!

2. Our 2022 summer field season

The summer of 2022 marked the return of acoustics research to the Five Finger Lighthouse in Southeast Alaska. We partnered with the Five Finger Lighthouse Society – a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to the use and preservation of the historic Five Finger Lighthouse (FFLS) – to continue our playback research in Southeast Alaska. The lighthouse boasts one of the most impressive views of humpback whale habitat in Southeast Alaska, and due to its prominent location in a whale dense feeding ground, was once a hotspot for humpback whale research. In the 1970’s, some of the first recordings of Alaskan humpback whales were made adjacent to these shores by Dr. Roger Payne (you may remember him as the biologist who first described whale song). Since 2011, members of our team have been visiting the lighthouse periodically dropping hydrophones in pursuit of unravelling the complexity of humpback whale communication.

While some of our researchers have visited the island from time to time, this is the first year that Sound Science as an organization has had a presence of the island. We are extremely grateful to the FFLS for sharing this extraordinary resource with us. The close proximity to whales from the shore and the epic views of the sunset only added to the experience.

3. Fathom at the Emmy’s!

In other exciting news, we are thrilled to announce that Fathom, the documentary on Apple+ TV that features Sound Science’s work, was nominated for not one, but two Emmy’s! This includes a nomination for ‘Outstanding Sound’ and a nomination for the prestigious ‘Outstanding Science and Technology Documentary.’

And on September 29th, it was announced that Fathom WON an Emmy! The incredibly talented Fathom team was awarded the Emmy for ‘Outstanding Sound’. As the documentary focused on our bio-acoustics work studying the acoustics of humpback whales, we like to think that some congratulations also go to the whales for winning this Emmy. We are so thrilled to be a part of this film – watch it here on Apple+ TV if you haven’t already!

4. Our Cruise Ship Collaboration

Last year, Sound Science partnered with American Queen Voyages for their inaugural year sailing in Alaska. This took place on their new cruise ship, the Ocean Victory – which has been specially designed to have as low an environment impact as possible.

Our team joined the Ocean Victory on four expedition cruises, where we shared our ongoing research program with passengers, considered potential new field sites, and strengthened our relationship with Ocean Victory crew members. Engaging with the public is essential for educating tourists about current conservation issues, and we are excited to have this new platform. Additionally, by coordinating with the Ocean Victory’s regular route to supply us with water, food, and transport for our team, we were able to minimize our fuel consumption.

As part of our 2022 partnership, American Queen Cruises donated an 18’ inflatable boat to our team along with a brand new outboard engine. A reliable survey vessel is at the core of our research program, and with this donation we were able to weather the seas, seek out the whales, and conduct another acoustic playback experiment to Southeast Alaskan humpback whales.

We are so thrilled to be working with American Queen Voyages, and look forward to continuing this collaboration long into the future.

5. The Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference

Academic conferences are so important to scientists and conservationists like us at SSRC. They are priceless opportunities when the world of marine mammal scientists get together to discuss exciting new collaborations, strengthen existing ones, and meet up with old friends. Indeed, many of our team at Sound Science met at previous Society for Marine Mammalogy conferences!

In August of 2022 the Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference took place in West Palm Beach, Florida. While the timing of the conference overlapped with field season and stopped some of our team to attend in person, we still had a significant presence at the conference.

Sound Science was involved in a total of five presentations! This shows the diversity of projects our team are working on.

  • The effect of vessel noise on humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) surface behavior on a Southeast Alaskan foraging ground
  • Impact of Covid-19 on acoustic habitat, vessel activity, and humpback whale calling behavior on an Icelandic foraging ground
  • The impact of the “Anthropause” on the communication and acoustic habitat of Southeast Alaskan humpback whales
  • Evolution of bubble net tool use in humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) foraging off the Irish coast

Stay behind, not high above – underwater noise levels of three drones measured at various horizontal and vertical distances

As always, we are so grateful for your interest in our work and our organization! The team is so pleased to be back from the field with more data and we’re already diving into analysis. Right now, we are still in need of funds to support our 2023 Alaska field season. Donations made to Sound Science go directly to travel, food, safety equipment, and stipends to ensure all of our team members are paid appropriately for their efforts. If you are interested in contributing to the longevity of our organization, consider making a donation by clicking here. Every single dollar is impactful for our research!

Likewise, we would love to engage further with you, our supporters. If you have any questions about Sound Science Research Collective, our research, or future plans, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at

With gratitude,

The Sound Science Research Collective Team

  • Dr. Michelle Fournet, Director
  • Dr. Leanna Matthews, Assistant Director
  • Andy Rogan, Development Associate
  • Natalie Mastick Jensen, Research Associate
  • Dr. Samara Haver, Research Associate

Sign Up For Our Newsletter