Aaron Rice, Ph.D.
My current research focuses on the production and perception of sounds by fishes and whales, and I use this information to address two key areas in coastal ecology: how sounds are produced and used to structure social behaviors, and how I can use the spatial and temporal occurrence of species-specific sounds to understand the population dynamics of vocalizing species. My work has revealed that fish sounds often dominate the soundscapes of the coastal ecosystems, often for several months at a time. In turn, the occurrence of fish and whale sounds can reveal patterns of community assembly and how community structure may be influenced through environmental changes–the timing of migratory patterns and the onset and duration of reproductive behavior are strongly influenced by hydrological or oceanographic patterns.
Much of my ecological research also has a direct application to natural resource management and conservation. I have been repeatedly approached by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and various federal and state agencies to collect bioacoustic data to support policy decisions. The ecology of Atlantic fishes and whales represents important information for effective coastal marine and spatial planning and resource management. Several of our recent publications were directly used as support for the expansion of North Atlantic right whale critical habitats (Federal Register 81:4837), and contributed to the listing of the Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s whales as endangered (Federal Register 81:88639). In the context of coastal and marine spatial planning, I have been the first to establish patterns of resident marine mammals and fishes in offshore wind energy development areas to influence windfarm development (notably in the Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Georgia, and North Carolina wind planning areas). As an example of using passive acoustic approaches for fisheries management, in collaboration with the National Park Service, I am examining how directed freshwater flow through the Everglades impacts spawning behavior of fish populations in Florida Bay.
I have been actively involved in the marine mammal and bioacoustics scientific communities, focusing on data, management, and policy issues. I have worked closely with different agencies in the federal government (NOAA, BOEM, U.S. Navy, MMC), state agencies (Maryland, Maine, Virginia, New York), industry and NGOs. For a recent passive acoustic project focusing on fish and whale ecology on the Atlantic coast (funded through the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management), I received the Partners in Conservation Award from the U.S. Department of Interior (2014).
I have served as a grant reviewer panelist for the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (through the Council for Ocean Leadership) and the North Pacific Research Board, and more than 30 journals.
I received degrees from Davidson College (B.S.), Boston University (M.A.), and the University of Chicago (M.S. and Ph.D.), and completed my postdoctoral training at Cornell.