Douglas Nowacek

Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Sound propagates very efficiently through sea water, and marine mammals take advantage of this medium to communicate and explore their environment. My research is focused on the link between acoustic and motor behavior in marine mammals, primarily cetaceans and manatees, specifically, how they use sound in ecological processes. The cetaceans, or whales and dolphins, are divided into two main groups, the toothed whales (odontocetes) and the baleen whales (mysticetes). One of my specific areas of research is the use of echolocation and foraging behavior in one of the odontocetes, the bottlenose dolphin. Another focus of my current research is the effect(s) of anthropogenic noise on marine mammals.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Randolph K. Repass and Sally-Christine Rodgers University Distinguished Professor of Conservation Technology in Environment and Engineering
  • Professor
  • Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Contact Information

  • Office Location: Duke Univ Marine Lab, 135 Duke Marine Lab Rd, Beaufort, NC 28516
  • Office Phone: (252) 504-7566
  • Email Address: doug.nowacek@duke.edu
  • Websites:

Education

  • B.A. Ohio Wesleyan University, 1991
  • Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1999

Research Interests

Marine mammal behavioral and acoustic ecology
Ocean noise
Offshore renewable energy

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions

  • Sally Connally Hardie Visiting Researcher. University of St. Andrews, Scotland. 2018
  • Visiting Scholar. University of Tasmania. 2013

Courses Taught

  • BIOLOGY 279LA: Sound in the Sea: Introduction to Marine Bioacoustics
  • BIOLOGY 784LA: Sound in the Sea: Introduction to Marine Bioacoustics
  • ECE 384LA: Sound in the Sea: Introduction to Marine Bioacoustics
  • ECE 461: Ocean Engineering
  • ECE 590: Advanced Topics in Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • ECE 784LA: Sound in the Sea: Introduction to Marine Bioacoustics
  • ECS 280LA: Sound in the Sea: Introduction to Marine Bioacoustics
  • ENVIRON 280LA: Sound in the Sea: Introduction to Marine Bioacoustics
  • ENVIRON 318A: Offshore Renewable Energy & Wildlife Conservation
  • ENVIRON 394A: Research Independent Study
  • ENVIRON 461: Ocean Engineering
  • ENVIRON 723A: Offshore Renewable Energy & Wildlife Conservation
  • ENVIRON 784LA: Sound in the Sea: Introduction to Marine Bioacoustics
  • MARSCI 280LA: Sound in the Sea: Introduction to Marine Bioacoustics
  • MARSCI 323A: Offshore Renewable Energy & Wildlife Conservation
  • MARSCI 393: Research Independent Study
  • MARSCI 393A: Research Independent Study
  • MARSCI 394: Research Independent Study
  • ME 426: Ocean Engineering

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Cioffi, W. R., N. J. Quick, Z. T. Swaim, H. J. Foley, D. M. Waples, D. L. Webster, R. W. Baird, B. L. Southall, D. P. Nowacek, and A. J. Read. “Trade-offs in telemetry tag programming for deep-diving cetaceans: data longevity, resolution, and continuity.” Animal Biotelemetry 11, no. 1 (December 1, 2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40317-023-00334-1.
  • Lohmann, A. C., J. P. Morton, O. M. Schofield, and D. P. Nowacek. “Cyclical prey shortages for a marine polar predator driven by the interaction of climate change and natural climate variability.” Limnology and Oceanography 68, no. 12 (December 1, 2023): 2668–87. https://doi.org/10.1002/lno.12453.
  • Southall, B. L., G. P. Donovan, R. Racca, R. R. Reeves, A. I. Vedenev, D. W. Weller, and D. P. Nowacek. “Data collection and analysis methods to evaluate potential impacts of seismic surveys and other marine industrial activities on baleen whales.” Ocean and Coastal Management 245 (November 1, 2023). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2023.106799.
  • Merrill, Greg B., Ludovic Hermabessiere, Chelsea M. Rochman, and Douglas P. Nowacek. “Microplastics in marine mammal blubber, melon, & other tissues: Evidence of translocation.” Environmental Pollution (Barking, Essex : 1987) 335 (October 2023): 122252. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2023.122252.
  • Boisseau, O., D. Nowacek, J. Roberts, D. A. Pabst, A. Clabaugh, A. Moscrop, R. McLanaghan, T. Yack, and J. J. Levenson. “Acoustic density estimates of beaked whales off the mid-Atlantic coast of the USA in winter and spring.” Deep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers 199 (September 1, 2023). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsr.2023.104108.