Douglas Nowacek

Douglas Nowacek

Randolph K. Repass and Sally-Christine Rodgers University Professor of Conservation Technology in the Nicholas School of the Environment and the Edmund T. Pratt, Jr. School of Engineering

Sound propagates very efficiently through sea water, and marine mammals take advantage of this medium to communicate and explore their environment. My research is focused on the link between acoustic and motor behavior in marine mammals, primarily cetaceans and manatees, specifically, how they use sound in ecological processes. The cetaceans, or whales and dolphins, are divided into two main groups, the toothed whales (odontocetes) and the baleen whales (mysticetes). One of my specific areas of research is the use of echolocation and foraging behavior in one of the odontocetes, the bottlenose dolphin. Another focus of my current research is the effect(s) of anthropogenic noise on marine mammals.

In The News


Wang, Zhi-Tao, Tomonari Akamatsu, Douglas P. Nowacek, Jing Yuan, Lu Zhou, Pei-Yu Lei, Jiao Li, Peng-Xiang Duan, Ke-Xiong Wang, and Ding Wang. “Soundscape of an Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis) hotspot before windfarm construction in the Pearl River Estuary, China: Do dolphin engage in noise avoidance and passive eavesdropping behavior?.” Marine Pollution Bulletin 140 (March 2019): 509–22.
Hoop, J. M. van der, A. E. Nousek-McGregor, D. P. Nowacek, S. E. Parks, P. Tyack, and P. T. Madsen. “Foraging rates of ram-filtering North Atlantic right whales.” Functional Ecology, January 1, 2019.
Rycyk, A. M., C. J. Deutsch, M. E. Barlas, S. K. Hardy, K. Frisch, E. H. Leone, and D. P. Nowacek. “Manatee behavioral response to boats.” Marine Mammal Science 34, no. 4 (October 1, 2018): 924–62.
Bowers, Matthew T., Ari S. Friedlaender, Vincent M. Janik, Douglas P. Nowacek, Nicola J. Quick, Brandon L. Southall, and Andrew J. Read. “Selective reactions to different killer whale call categories in two delphinid species..” The Journal of Experimental Biology 221, no. Pt 11 (June 12, 2018).
Pallin, Logan J., C Scott Baker, Debbie Steel, Nicholas M. Kellar, Jooke Robbins, David W. Johnston, Doug P. Nowacek, Andrew J. Read, and Ari S. Friedlaender. “High pregnancy rates in humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) around the Western Antarctic Peninsula, evidence of a rapidly growing population..” Royal Society Open Science 5, no. 5 (May 2, 2018).

Recent Grants


ENVIRON 270A: Conservation Biology and Policy (ENVIRON 270A: Conservation Biology and Policy)
ENVIRON 790: Special Topics (ENVIRON 790: Special Topics)
ENVIRON 280LA: Sound in the Sea: Introduction to Marine Bioacoustics (ENVIRON 280LA: Sound in the Sea: Introduction to Marine Bioacoustics)
BIOLOGY 293A: Research Independent Study (BIOLOGY 293A: Research Independent Study)
ENVIRON 784LA: Sound in the Sea: Introduction to Marine Bioacoustics (ENVIRON 784LA: Sound in the Sea: Introduction to Marine Bioacoustics)

Contact Information

Duke Univ Marine Lab, 135 Duke Marine Lab Rd
Beaufort, NC 28516


Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1999)
B.A., Ohio Wesleyan University (1991)