Sound and Health

NMMF scientists and veterinarians are exploring the relationship between dolphin vocalizations and their wellness.

A depiction of the underwater array

We have developed a hydrophone array that eavesdrops on marine mammals under our care in the San Diego Bay around the clock. The team has been characterizing the vocal repertoire and acoustic features of the Navy’s healthy and thriving dolphins and comparing that acoustic behavior to other times when a dolphin is not feeling well. The Sound and Health team have been awarded a continuation grant from the Office of Naval Research to develop deep learning, artificially intelligent programs that can predict the health status from recordings of the signature whistles of the Navy’s dolphins. If successful, this project could lead to the development and implementation of non-invasive acoustic tools for real-time monitoring of animal health and welfare.

Spectrograms of 8 of our dolphins’ signature whistles
Spectrograms of 5 of our dolphins signature whistles and each of them producing the shared whistle contour (termed the group whistle).


Sam Ridgway, DVM, PhD, DACZM
Brittany Jones, PhD

Research Associates

Jessica Sportelli, MS
Mark Baird


Abby McClain, DVM, MPH

Health and Data Records

Risa Daniels

Recent Publications

Jones, B. L., Zapetis, M., Samuelson, M. & Ridgway, S. (2019). Sounds produced by bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops): a review of the defining characteristics and acoustic criteria of the dolphin vocal repertoire, Bioacoustics, 29, 1-42. DOI: 10.1080/09524622.2019.1613265

Jones, B. L., Daniels, R., Tufano, S., & Ridgway, S. (2020). Five members of a mixed-sex group of bottlenose dolphins share a stereotyped whistle contour in addition to maintaining their individually distinctive signature whistles. PloS one, 15(5), e0233658.

Jones, B. Oswald, M. Tufano, S. Baird, M. Mulsow, J., Ridgway, S. (2021) A system for monitoring acoustics to supplement an animal welfare plan for bottlenose dolphins. J. Zool. Bot. Gard., 2, 222–233.

Jones, B., Tufano, S., Daniels, R., Mulsow, J., Ridgway, S. (2022) Non-stereotyped amplitude modulation across signature whistle contours. Behavioral Processes, 194, 104561.