Eavesdropping on Echolocation

A Lesson from the 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan

About this Lesson

During the 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan, Dr. Lisa Gilbert led shipboard science projects, gathering information on the weather, water, birds, mammals and even trash encountered along the way. Dr. Gilbert and her assistants, the 38th Voyagers used modern instruments like GPS to determine location and a microscope to analyze plankton.  They recorded observations in a log much like the ones used by generations of seafarers before them.

Inspired by the 38th Voyage, graduate student Alexandra McInturf and Dr. Gilbert created a new science unit for middle school teachers.  The six lessons in the unit merge history with science to encourage an enduring interdisciplinary connection between modern marine science and the experience of the nineteenth-century whaler. 

This lesson, "Eavesdropping on Echolocation" is the second of six lessons in the unit "Science on the 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan," funded in part by Williams College.

Learning Objectives for this Lesson: 

- Students possess a basic understanding of how sound can be used to communicate in waves underwater, and why this is a more effective way of communication in this environment

- Students understand the different types of information that sound and echolocation can provide in marine mammals

-  Students are able to apply this understanding to other sources of noise underwater, and can predict the effects of anthropogenic noise on marine mammals.

- Students can project their understanding of acoustic pollution to construct a future conservation scenario that minimizes human impact on the environment

Next Generation Science Standards 

1.- MS-PS4-3.Integrate qualitative scientific and technical information to support the claim that digitized signals are a more reliable way to encode and transmit information than analog signals.

2.- MS-ESS3-3. Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.

3.- MS-ESS3-4. Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.


Created By
Alexandra McInturf, Lisa Gilbert
Grade Level
3-5, 6-8, General Interest
General Interest, Science

Links to Lesson PDFs

The Lesson

Eavesdropping on Echolocation : A Lesson from the 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan

Supplements to the Lesson