Dolphin Communication: Cracking the Code

IPaT Distinguished Lecture
Denise Herzing and Thad Starner

Scientists have struggled to understand dolphin vocalizations, but new computer tools to both track dolphins and decode their complex vocalizations are now emerging. Dr. Denise Herzing has been studying Atlantic spotted dolphins, Stenella frontalis, in the Bahamas for over three decades. Her video and acoustic database encompasses a myriad of complex vocalizations and dolphin behavior. Dr. Thad Starner works on mining this dataset and decoding dolphin sounds, and has created a wearable underwater computer, CHAT (Cetacean Hearing and Telemetry), to help establish a bridge for communication between humans and dolphins. Starner and Herzing will present this cutting-edge work and recent results, including perspectives on the challenges of studying this aquatic society, and decoding their communication signals using the latest technology.

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Denise Herzing received her B.S. in Marine Zoology from Oregon State University in 1979; her M.A. in Behavioral Biology from San Francisco State University in 1988; and her Ph.D. in Behavioral Biology and Environmental Studies from the Union Institute Graduate School in 1993. She began her unprecedented, long-term study of Atlantic spotted dolphins in 1985, and is the founder of The Wild Dolphin Project.  Dr. Herzing is the author of numerous articles and papers and is currently an Affiliate Assistant Professor of Biological and Psychological Sciences at Florida Atlantic University.  Most recently Dr. Herzing has been recognized by the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation as a 2008 Fellow.  Dr. Herzing is also a 2004 Fellow of the Explorers Club. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, National Geographic, CNN, and the Huffington Post. Her TED Talk, Could We Speak the Language of Dolphins, has been viewed more than 1 million times.

Thad Starner is a Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology's School of Interactive Computing. Thad was perhaps the first to integrate a wearable computer into his everyday life as an intelligent personal assistant. Starner's work as a PhD student would help found the field of Wearable Computing. His group's prototypes and patents on mobile MP3 players, mobile instant messaging and e-mail, gesture-based interfaces, and mobile context-based search foreshadowed now commonplace devices and services. Thad has authored over 100 scientific publications with over 100 co-authors on mobile Human Computer Interaction (HCI), pattern discovery, human power generation for mobile devices, and gesture recognition, and he is a founder and current co-chair of the IEEE Technical Committee on Wearable Information Systems. His work is discussed in public forums such as CNN, NPR, the BBC, CBS's 60 Minutes, The New York Times, Nikkei Science, The London Independent, The Bangkok Post, and The Wall Street Journal.