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Whitlow Au awarded Gold Medal by Acoustical Society of America

May 03, 2016

Whitlow W. L. Au, Emeritus Research Professor at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, Kaneohe, HI, has been named recipient of the Gold Medal of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) for contributions to understanding underwater biosonar, and for service to the Acoustical Society. The award will be presented at the 171st meeting of the ASA on 25 May 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Gold Medal is presented to a member of the ASA whose contributions to the field of acoustics and to the Acoustical Society have been unusually distinguished.

"I am honored and humbled to receive this award. This is the first time that the Gold Medal has been awarded to someone who performed most of his research in Hawaii," said Au.

Whitlow Au earned a BS. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Hawaii and a Ph.D .in Electrical Sciences from Washington State University. He served as a Senior Scientist at the Naval Ocean Systems Center, Hawaii Laboratory from 1971 to 1993 after which he joined the Marine Mammal Research Program at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology as Chief Scientist where he continues today as Emeritus Research Professor.

Sonar was invented just prior to WWI. However, dolphins have been using "biosonar" for millions of years to search for food and avoid obstacles. In shallow water and for short ranges below 200-300 meters evolutionary pressures over millennia have resulted in dolphin biosonar being considerably superior to man-made sonar. Au's research has been devoted to understanding dolphin biosonar and to learn why it is so superior to man-made sonar. This involves understanding the properties and capabilities of dolphin biosonar, discovering how dolphins produce sound, and how sound travels through the head and enters the water via their foreheads. It also involves understanding how the "special" type of signals produced by dolphins capture the essence of different objects. The ultimate goal is to design sonars that are based on the principles underlying dolphin biosonar.

Whit Au served on the National Research Council Ocean Studies Board (2004-06) and as chair or member of organizing committees for national and international meetings and symposiums including the International Symposium on Sensory Systems and Behavior of Aquatic Mammals (1991), the 3rd International Symposium on Animal Sonar (1996), the Acoustic Communication by Animals International Symposium series (2008, 2010, 2011), and Joint Meetings of the ASA and the Acoustical Society of Japan in 1996, 2006, and upcoming in the fall of 2016. His service to ASA includes Chair of the Technical Committee on Animal Bioacoustics (1997-00), Associate Editor, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America for Animal Bioacoustics (1998-), Member of the Executive Council (2001-04), Vice President (2006-07), and President 2009-10). He was awarded the first ASA Silver Medal in Animal Bioacoustics in 1998.
The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) is the premier international scientific society in acoustics devoted to the science and technology of sound. Its 7000 members worldwide represent a broad spectrum of the study of acoustics. ASA publications include the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America -- the world's leading journal on acoustics, Acoustics Today magazine, and standards on acoustics. ASA also holds two major scientific meetings each year. For more information about the Society visit our website,

Acoustical Society of America

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