Geology Lecture: Whale Seismology

Geology Lecture: Whale Seismology

January 26, 2021 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Southwestern’s Geology Lecture series continues virtually for 2020-21.
Dr. William Wilcock (University of Washington) will present the 16th Annual Cascadia Anniversary lecture on “Whale Seismology!”.

Large whales are amongst the most captivating animals on Earth, but they are challenging to study because they are too big to hold in tanks, they spend most of their time underwater, and individuals can range over thousands of miles. Recording their vocalizations is one of only a handful of tools available to scientists, but such data can be expensive to obtain, particularly in the deep ocean. The two largest whale species, blue and fin whales, create very loud repetitive sounds at frequencies of about 20 Hz that overlap those of earthquakes, and they are commonly recorded by the networks of seafloor seismometers deployed for geophysical studies. Whale recordings on seafloor seismometers are sometimes viewed as a bothersome source of noise that obscures seismic signals, but beginning with some pioneering work in the 1990s, a small but growing community of marine seismologists are taking advantage of earthquake monitoring experiments in the oceans to study blue and fin whales. Many of the seismological techniques to locate earthquakes and determine their size and frequency characteristics can be adapted to whales.

In his talk, Dr. Wilcock will describe the origin of his own interest in whale seismology and discuss ongoing efforts to exploit extensive seismic data sets in the northeast Pacific and elsewhere for whale seismology.

Geology Lecture Series talks are free and are currently being held virtually from the college website, Click on the Livestream button at the time of the talk. For those not able to watch live, lectures are archived, with access from the College’s website at

Lecture series sponsors include DB Western, The Mill Casino, IRIS/SSA, Ocean Discovery Lecture Series, the Southwestern Foundation, and the College.

For additional information, please contact Ron Metzger at 541-888-7216; [email protected]