Whale song expert honoured

Professor Robert McCauley, Curtin University’s Centre for Marine Science and Technology. Image credit: | Curtin University

A pioneering marine scientist, whose dedication has contributed to a greater understanding of the secret life of whales through their song, has been honoured among Australia’s top marine scientists.

Professor Robert McCauley, from Curtin University’s Centre for Marine Science and Technology, has been named the Australian Marine Sciences Association’s 2023 Jubilee Award winner for his outstanding contribution to marine research, spanning more than 30 years of recording captivating whale song, fish grunts and prawn pops.

Curtin’s Faculty of Science and Engineering Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Mark Ogden said the award confirmed Professor McCauley’s place as one of Australia’s pre-eminent experts in marine bioacoustics.

Between January and March, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest pod of killer whales (orcas) gathers at Bremer Bay Canyon, a deepwater ecosystem about 65 kms off WA’s southern coast.

“Rob’s research into the impacts of sound on marine fauna, and developing passive acoustic methods for monitoring marine animals, is considered foremost in the world,” Professor Ogden said.

“The wealth of knowledge accrued during his impressive career includes a library of long-term sound recordings, which has improved what we know of the distribution and abundance of whales around Australia.

“He has documented the effects of seismic surveys on whales and fishes and also provided the first evidence of impacts on zooplankton and marine invertebrates, and his research outputs have supported the conservation and management of threatened species.”

The award recognises renowned scientists whose research has revolutionised and improved the understanding of Australia’s marine environment.