Listening to the Ocean

Kathleen Wage, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Volgenau School of Engineering, studies sounds in the ocean and loves to spend time on research ships.

Wage studied engineering at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK). As a UTK student, she interned at the prestigious Oak Ridge National Laboratory for three summers. At Oak Ridge she worked on a Navy project involving sonar signal processing, and based on this experience, she decided to pursue graduate studies in signal processing. After finishing her bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, she went on to graduate school at MIT. Wage’s advisor recommended that she apply to the joint program MIT has with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

Kathleen Wage, Associate Professor Stands on Boat at sea.

"Since WHOI students get to go out on a 10-day cruise in the Atlantic Ocean on a 125-foot sailboat, I immediately said yes!" said Wage.

Professor Wage has been at Mason since 1999. She and her research group focus on problems that require a synthesis of array processing, acoustics, and oceanography.

Some of their latest work involves analysis of data from experiments in the Philippine Sea. In 2009-2011 Wage spent 55 days onboard research ships, deploying arrays of hydrophones (underwater microphones) and other equipment. The PhilSea experiments included researchers from a large number of other institutions, including Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Naval Postgraduate School, the University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory, and the University of Hawaii. Wage’s group is focusing on analyzing data from the 5 km long vertical line array. Their research is relevant for a number of applications, including tracking seasonal variability of the ocean environment, detecting submarines, and conducting seismic surveys.

Additional information on this and other ocean signal processing projects at Mason can be found on the Ocean Acoustic Signal Processing Group website.

To read more about the PhilSea experiments, visit Professor Wage’s blog “Able Sea Chicks: Adventures in Acoustical Oceanography.”