Christopher Clark

Senior Scientist Emeritus


Acoustic Ecology • Behavioral Ecology • Bioacoustics • Animal Communication • Bio-engineering

I love and am addicted to music and song. To me the whole world is singing.

As a lover of nature, I listen to the voices and songs of whales, birds, elephants, crickets, fish, frogs, shrimp, etc. As a scientist in the Bioacoustics Research Program, I study how and why animals listen to and produce sounds to communicate, navigate, find food, maintain social networks, and survive.

The research of my colleagues and I indicates that noise pollution from human activities can have and is having multiple impacts on ocean life. These results have motivated me to become a strong scientific advocate and leader for the protection of natural quiet.

I started out as an engineer; shifted to biomedical engineer; was in a MD-PhD program in auditory prosthetics (hearing aids); by serendipity met a scientist-family and joined them on a National Geographic expedition to Patagonia, Argentina; ended up doing a Ph.D. in neurobiology and behavioral, and a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) post-doc in birdsong. In 1987, I came to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to start the Bioacoustics Research Program. The rest is history!

Though I am officially retired from the Lab, I continue to progress a new, ecologically based paradigm for evaluating and measuring biological risks from human-made noise on wildlife of all shapes and sizes.


Stony Brook University
Rockefeller University

Favorite Encounters, Favorite Things

Lying beneath the Southern Cross on a beach in Patagonia while listening to whales snoring 50 feet away; midnight and 40 below zero on the arctic ice off Point Barrow, Alaska as steam rises from the ocean, whales appear to be flying in the sky, and the sun drapes itself across the frozen horizon; hearing a blue whale singing across the Atlantic Ocean (off Ireland while listening off Virginia); listening to the absolute cacophony of life explode after sunset in the Dzanga Forest, Central African Republic; listening to ocean breathing; listening to ocean life beneath the frozen Arctic Ocean; Outer Cape Cod saltmarshes; surfing; blueberries; beach plums and oysters.

Recent Publications

Lostanlen, V., K. Palmer, E. Knight, C. Clark, H. Klinck, A. Farnsworth, T. Wong, J. Cramer, and J. P. Bello (2019). Long-distance detection of bioacoustic events with per-channel energy normalization.
Malige, F., J. Julie Patris, S. J. Buchan, K. S. Stafford, L. E. Rendell, F. W. Shabangu, K. P. Findlay, R. Hucke-Gaete, S. Neira, and C. W. Clark (2019). [In press] Annual decrease in pulse rate and peak frequency of Southeast Pacific blue whale song type using a new mathematical model of pulsed sound. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.
Clark, C. W., R. A. Charif, D. Hawthorne, A. Rahaman, G. H. Givens, J. C. George, and C. A. Muirhead (2019). [In press] Acoustic data from the spring 2011 bowhead whale census at Point Barrow, Alaska. Journal of Cetacean Management and Research.
Sousa-Lima, R. S., M. H. Engel, V. Sabato, B. R. Lima, T. S. M. Queiroz, M. R. M. Brito, D. P. Fernandes, C. A. C. Martins, P. S. Hatum, T. Casagrande, L. K. Honda, et al. (2018). Acoustic ecology of humpback whales in Brazilian waters investigated with basic and sophisticated passive acoustic technologies over 17 years. WIO Journal of Marine Science Special Issue:23–40.
Gabriele, C. M., D. W. Ponirakis, C. W. Clark, J. N. Womble, and P. Vanselow (2018). Underwater acoustic ecology metrics in an Alaska marine protected area reveal marine mammal communication masking and management alternatives. Frontiers in Marine Science 5:270.
Cholewiak, D., C. W. Clark, D. Ponirakis, A. Frankel, L. T. Hatch, D. Risch, J. E. Stanistreet, M. Thompson, E. Vu, and S. M. Van Parijs (2018). Communicating amidst the noise: Modeling the aggregate influence of ambient and vessel noise on baleen whale communication space in a national marine sanctuary. Endangered Species Research 36:59–75.
Buchan, S. J., R. Hucke-Gaete, K. M. Stafford, and C. W. Clark (2018). Occasional acoustic presence of Antarctic blue whales on a feeding ground in southern Chile. Marine Mammal Science 34:220–228.
Muirhead, C. A., A. M. Warde, I. S. Biedron, A. N. Mihnovets, C. W. Clark, and A. N. Rice (2018). Seasonal acoustic occurrence of blue, fin, and North Atlantic right whales in the New York Bight. Aquatic Conservation 1–10.
Cholewiak, D. M., S. Cerchio, J. K. Jacobsen, J. Urban-R, and C. W. Clark (2018). Songbird dynamics under the sea: acoustic interactions between humpback whales suggest song mediates male interactions. Royal Society Open Science 5:171298.
Davis, G. E., M. F. Baumgartner, J. M. Bonnell, J. Bell, C. Berchok, J. B. Thornton, S. Brault, G. Buchanan, R. A. Charif, C. W. Clark, H. Klinck, et al. (2017). Long-term passive acoustic recordings track the changing distribution of North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) from 2004 to 2014. Scientific Reports 7:13460.
Lacy, R. C., R. Williams, E. Ashe, K. C. Balcomb III, L. J. N. Brent, C. W. Clark, D. P. Croft, D. A. Giles, M. MacDuffee, and P. C. Paquet (2017). Evaluating anthropogenic threats to endangered killer whales to inform effective recovery plans. Scientific Reports 7.
Estabrook, B., D. Ponirakis, C. Clark, and A. Rice (2016). Widespread spatial and temporal extent of anthropogenic noise across the northeastern Gulf of Mexico shelf ecosystem. Endangered Species Research 30:267–282.
Williams, R., L. Thomas, E. Ashe, C. W. Clark, and P. S. Hammond (2016). Gauging allowable harm limits to cumulative, sub-lethal effects of human activities on wildlife: A case-study approach using two whale populations. Marine Policy 70:58–64.
Givens, G. H., S. L. Edmondson, J. C. George, R. Suydam, R. A. Charif, A. Rahaman, D. Hawthorne, B. Tudor, R. A. DeLong, and C. W. Clark (2016). Horvitz-Thompson whale abundance estimation adjusting for uncertain recapture, temporal availability variation, and intermittent effort. Environmetrics 27:134–146.
Salisbury, D. P., C. W. Clark, and A. N. Rice (2016). Right whale occurrence in the coastal waters of Virginia, U.S.A.: Endangered species presence in a rapidly developing energy market. Marine Mammal Science 32:508–519.
Guerra, M., P. J. Dugan, D. W. Ponirakis, M. Popescu, Y. Shiu, A. N. Rice, and C. W. Clark (2016). High-Resolution Analysis of Seismic Air Gun Impulses and Their Reverberant Field as Contributors to an Acoustic Environment. In The Effects of Noise on Aquatic Life II (N. A. Popper and A. Hawkins, Editors). Springer New York, New York, NY, pp. 371–379.
Hodge, K. B., C. A. Muirhead, J. L. Morano, C. W. Clark, and A. N. Rice (2015). North Atlantic right whale occurrence near wind energy areas along the mid-Atlantic US coast: implications for management. Endangered Species Research 28:225–234.
Williams, R., A. J. Wright, E. Ashe, L. K. Blight, R. Bruintjes, R. Canessa, C. W. Clark, S. Cullis-Suzuki, D. T. Dakin, C. Erbe, P. S. Hammond, et al. (2015). Impacts of anthropogenic noise on marine life: publication patterns, new discoveries, and future directions in research and management. Ocean & Coastal Management 115:17–24.
Dugan, P. J., H. Klinck, and C. W. Clark (2015). Data mining sound archives: a new scalable algorithm for parallel-distributing processing. IEEE, pp. 768–772.
Center K. Lisa Yang Center for Conservation Bioacoustics
Work Cell607-227-7205

Join Our Email List

The Cornell Lab will send you updates about birds, birding, and opportunities to help bird conservation. Sign up for email and don’t miss a thing!

Golden-cheeked Warbler by Bryan Calk/Macaulay Library