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Univ. of Delaware receives federal Dept. of Defense grant to study Arctic Ocean

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

When sound travels through the water, it runs faster if the water is warm, but slower if it’s cold and salty. If it hits a solid object, like ice, the signal loses energy and becomes quieter.

There’s a lot to learn in the ocean environment from just looking at how sound moves through different bodies of water. Mohsen Badiey, a marine science professor at University of Delaware, says it’s the best way to interpret the oceans.


"Electromagnetic waves don’t penetrate in seawater, so sound waves are the only means we can study the ocean within," said Badiey.

Badiey, now acting dean of UD’s college of Earth, Ocean and Environment, recently received close to $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Defense to study the transmission of acoustic signals in the Arctic over the next three years. He was one of 225 researchers in a round of grants to equip scientists with state-of-the-art technology for defense research, totaling $67.8 million.

As ice cover continues to steadily decline in the Arctic, traffic in the area  could increase, making it crucial to understand how to navigate the territory. Badiey and his colleagues conduct their research in the U.S. continental shelf in the Beaufort Sea, just north of Alaska.


“Because of these are the territorial waters of the United States, we need to be aware of activity, such as shipping. There are also things related to the laws of the ocean that we need to be cognizant about, like how to establish laws for areas that have not been accessible in the past," said Badiey.

This summer, researchers placed a recorder in the region to study how acoustic signals differ in shallow and deep waters. They plan to spend the defense grant on a comprehensive study next year to see what acoustic waves reveal about Arctic ocean’s changing environment.


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