Skip to content →

SPAWAR: Student support for dolphin biosonar studies

SPAWAR: Student support for dolphin biosonar studies

This Statement of Work covers the need for the services of a college student to provide technical and/or analytical support for the Investigating dolphin biosonar signal processing using phantom echoes project. The purpose of this project is to utilize a phantom echo generation (PEG) system to study the dolphin biosonar system and investigate echoic information necessary for target detection and discrimination. PEG systems do not use a physical target, but instead extract amplitude and timing information from the animal’s emitted biosonar signal, then broadcast a delayed signal to the animal, so that the returned signal appears to be an echo from a target located at some particular distance. The PEG provides unique capabilities to the study of echolocation, since it allows experimental parameters to be manipulated in ways that would be difficult or impossible with physical targets. In this project, behavior and performance of trained dolphins are assessed while the animals perform a variety of phantom echo detection and discrimination tasks.

The US Navy uses trained bottlenose dolphins to find underwater mines and to detect and interdict waterborne intruders. To accomplish these tasks, dolphins rely on their biological sonar (biosonar). Dolphin biosonar capabilities currently exceed those of man-made sonars, particularly when attempting to detect/discriminate objects in shallow, cluttered environments. For this reason, there is much interest in the means by which dolphins are able to achieve this performance. Although some progress has been made in understanding the characteristics of dolphin biosonar emissions, the operation of the biosonar receiving system, particularly the signal processing stage, is not well understood. Particularly interesting questions concern how dolphins perform feature extraction from a set of echoes and what salient echo properties identify target characteristics such as shape, material, and density. Quantifying these abilities will allow greater insight into how dolphins detect and use various echo features to identify targets and will provide guidance for new approaches to signal processing in advanced target detection and discrimination algorithms for mine-hunting and swimmer defense sonars.
Minimum Qualifications Graduate Level:
B.S. in Electrical Engineering or Mechanical Engineering major working on Master’s degree

Required Course Work:

For more information:

Published in Employment