Sounds in the ocean: ocean soundscapes and ambient sea noise


The project would conduct research into the sounds in the ocean with the aim of improving our understanding of how these sounds combine to form the soundscapes and the ambient sea noise or background noise of the ocean.

A complimentary scholarship for this project is available. To find out more, refer to the Defence Science and Technology (DST) Ambient Sea Noise and Ocean Soundscapes  Scholarship
For more information about this project, contact Prof Doug Cato directly. 


Professor Douglas Cato

Research Location

School of Geosciences

Program Type



Sound travels to great distances in the ocean and is the main means of sending information underwater for both humans and marine animals. Sounds from offshore breaking waves, marine animals and shipping together form the soundscapes of the ocean and the background noise that limits how far sounds of interest are audible for marine animals or detectable by sonar. Ambient noise varies widely as conditions vary and consequently causes wide variation in sonar performance, so is important in the design and operation of sonars. Soundscapes have a major effect on the way marine animals use sound and are important in understanding their communication and in assessing the impact of the noise of human activities. The project would involve analysis of existing data, collection of new data and development of models. There would be opportunities to participate in underwater acoustic experiments at sea to collect data and to test models.

Additional Information

The student would be supervised by Adjunct Professor Doug Cato in the School of Geosciences at the University of Sydney, who is also an Honorary Fellow in Defence Science and Technology Group (DST). He is an authority on ambient noise in the ocean and has many years research experience in underwater acoustics and marine bioacoustics. The auxiliary supervisors are Dr Yong Zhang of DST who has considerable research experience in underwater acoustics and sonar modelling, and Associate Professor Rob McCauley of the Centre for Marine Science and Technology at Curtin University who has extensive research experience in underwater acoustics and marine bioacoustics. The student would have opportunities to interact with staff in DST and Curtin University involved in underwater acoustics and sonar modelling. The project would be suitable for science graduates with a background in physics and mathematics or engineering graduates.  
For more information about this project, contact Prof Doug Cato directly. 
In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

  • Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
  • Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
  • Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision; Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
  • Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
  • Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
  • Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
  • Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
  • Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
  • Hold a current scuba diving license;
  • Hold a current Working with Children Check;
  • Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)
You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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acoustics, sound, marine, ocean, sonar

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 2320