Underwater Sound In Blue Planet II

Steve Simpson explains how he has pioneered new ways of listening to the ocean and of interacting with fish (including the use of underwater puppetry), to understand whole soundscapes and to unlock the language of fish. He also discusses his engagement with key marine industries, which aims to reduce and manage human noise pollution in the quest for quieter seas.

A far cry from Jacques Cousteau’s Silent World, in reality the ocean is a remarkably noisy place, with whales, dolphins, fish and invertebrates all producing sound to communicate. These sounds range from the haunting song of the humpback whale song to the explosive clicks of snapping shrimp, and are important for social interactions, courtship, predator avoidance and locating and selecting habitat, especially at night. But since the Industrial Revolution, we have been adding a whole raft of noises to the ocean, including shipping, motorboats, offshore construction, oil and gas prospecting and naval sonar.

Steve’s research was featured in David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef series in 2015, and his work on underwater noise pollution screened in the final Episode of Blue Planet II.

Previously Agile Rabbit talks were under the branding of Intrepid Explorers Exeter


Steve Simpson

Professor in Marine Biology & Global Change
University of Exeter

Steve Simpson is a marine biologist who combines tropical research and expeditions to remote locations with local fieldwork in Devon. Much of Steve’s work focuses on underwater acoustics, including the use of sound by fish and invertebrates, and impacts of human noise on marine life. Steve was a Series Academic Advisor for Blue Planet II, and his underwater puppetry featured in the final episode in a sequence on underwater noise.

He leads a dynamic research group of ~10 postdocs, PhD and Masters students. Following a NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship Steve has ongoing links with industry and policy on the themes of European Fisheries and Climate Change, and Anthropogenic Noise and Marine Ecosystems. He works closely with Cefas and the Met Office.