Leading Marine Mammal Acoustic Expert Joins Vineyard Wind

Dr. Christopher Clark named as Senior Scientist for the Offshore Wind Developer
Renowned marine mammal acoustic expert Dr. Christopher Clark has joined Vineyard Wind as Senior Scientist (Courtesy photo)

NEW BEDFORD – Vineyard Wind today announced that Dr. Christopher Clark will be partnering with the Company as a Senior Scientist. Dr. Clark is a renowned bioacoustician with over forty years of experience studying the potential influences of man-made sound on endangered species, with particular expertise with marine mammals and whales. The addition of Dr. Clark will advance Vineyard Wind’s commitment to protecting all marine life and further builds on an existing agreement with leading conservation groups to protect critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whales.

“Dr. Clark has built an impressive career working with marine mammals and whales for several decades,” said Rachel Pachter, Chief Development Officer for Vineyard Wind. “He is highly regarded not only in the northeast, but throughout the scientific community for his expertise on a variety of marine issues, most notably his pioneering work to design and develop the first passive acoustic monitoring systems still used to protect North Atlantic right whales near shipping lanes. We are excited to work with Dr. Clark and look forward to his expertise as we work to responsibly build and operate the first large-scale offshore wind energy project in the US.” 

“I am excited to work with a Vineyard Wind team that is already committed to developing offshore wind technology as safely and responsibly as possible,” said Dr. Chris Clark regarding his engagement as Senior Scientist for Vineyard Wind. “I spent much of my career working at the intersection of marine science, industry, and regulation, and I look forward to providing my expertise to a team at the forefront of an evolving industry that is new to the waters off the east coast.”

Vineyard Wind plans to partner with universities, technology companies, or other innovators to implement passive acoustic monitoring systems (PAMS) to be deployed alongside transit routes to the offshore wind areas. Once implemented, the systems will transmit monitoring data in near-real-time to project staff so that enhanced mitigation measures can be effectively implemented. Dr. Clark was a pioneer in the design and development of long-term PAMS, which includes a system that is still operational off the coast of Boston listening for North Atlantic right whales to alert mariners of whale presence near the shipping lanes.

“Dr. Chris Clark is a world-renowned expert on ocean acoustics whose ideas have driven our understanding of how anthropogenic sounds impact marine mammals, particularly whales,” said Peter Corkeron, Senior Scientist and Chair of the Kraus Marine Mammal Conservation Program at the New England Aquarium. “He has led much of the ground-breaking research on whales and noise, and has mentored many of the scientists who are now leading the next generation of this work.”

In January, 2019 Vineyard Wind and Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, and Conservation Law Foundation entered into a landmark agreement to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. Under this initiative, Vineyard Wind has agreed to implement a variety of protective measures to safeguard right whales while installing and operating turbines in the company’s leases areas off the southern coast of Massachusetts. Protective measures include strict vessel speed limits, comprehensive acoustic and visual monitoring, and construction times limited to periods when North Atlantic right whales are not expected to be present.

About Dr. Christopher Clark

Dr. Clark was the founding Director and Emogene P. Johnson senior scientist of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bioacoustics Research Program (BRP) from 1987 to 2017 as well as graduate research professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell University. Under his leadership, BRP initiated a suite of acoustic monitoring projects for the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale and other marine mammals along the U.S. Atlantic Coast. These monitoring projects have evolved into the premier method for documenting when and where whales occur along the east coast, and they provide critical data for evaluating and measuring biological impacts of human activities on whales and marine life. As a biologist and engineer, Dr. Clark is an expert in both marine mammal science and biological acoustics. He has published more than 300 peer reviewed papers throughout his career. Dr. Clark is presently a part-time senior research scientist at Marine Acoustics, Inc. Throughout his career, Dr. Clark has engaged in numerous collaborative research projects promoting the application of scientific knowledge for responsible conservation of marine mammals and endangered species. These initiatives have explicitly involved balancing environmental, societal, regulatory and offshore energy components.

Dr. Clark’s leadership in this form of applied, scientific conservation research began in the Arctic where he has worked for decades at the interface between endangered bowhead whales, Inupiat subsistence hunters, NOAA and major oil companies. These earlier experiences continued in the early 1990’s, when he was chosen as a lead scientist investigating the potential impacts of U.S. Navy sonars on whales and later investigating the impacts of the Macondo Deepwater Horizon crisis in the Gulf of Mexico. His current research continues to focus on understanding the influences and consequences of cumulative man-made noise sources on marine mammals, and promoting an ecologically based paradigm for evaluating and measuring biological risks from anthropogenic activities at individual and population levels.

Dr. Clark’s contributions to marine mammal science are extraordinary, and his expertise will be utilized to ensure responsible development and operation of the Vineyard Wind Projects.

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