Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

About the Watkins Marine Mammal Sound Database

| Background | About the website | Crediting Information | Download instructions | Important Caveats |


One of the founding fathers of marine mammal bioacoustics, William Watkins, carried out pioneering work with William Schevill at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for more than four decades, laying the groundwork for our field today. One of the lasting achievements of his career was the Watkins Marine Mammal Sound Database, a resource that contains approximately 2000 unique recordings of more than 60 species of marine mammals (Table 1). Recordings were made by Watkins and Schevill as well as many others, including G. C. Ray, D. Wartzok, D. and M. Caldwell, K. Norris, and T. Poulter. Most of these have been digitized, along with approximately 15,000 annotated digital sound clips.

The Watkins database has enormous historical and scientific value. The recordings provide sounds professionally identified as produced by particular marine mammal species in defined geographic regions (Figure 1) during specific seasons, which can be used as reference datasets for marine mammal detections from the growing amounts of passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) data that are being collected worldwide. In addition, the archive contains recordings that span seven decades, from the 1940's to the 2000's, and includes the very first recordings of 51 species of marine mammals. These data provide a rich resource to efforts aimed at examining long-term changes in vocal production that may be related to changes in ambient noise levels, as well as serve as a voucher collection for many species. We have made this resource fully accessible online, as was Watkins' goal (see crediting information below). The final product enables investigators, educators, students, and the public worldwide to freely and easily access acoustic samples from identified species of marine mammals, and place these samples in a geographic and temporal context. The physical collection has been donated to the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

About the website

The website has four tabs for the user to navigate: 'Best of' cuts, All cuts, Master tapes and About. The 'Best of' cuts section contains 1,694 sound cuts deemed to be of higher sound quality and lower noise from 32 different species. A given species can be chosen by clicking on the image, or by choosing a common or scientific name from the drop-down menus. The All cuts section contains approximately 15,000 sound cuts, which includes those in the 'Best of' section. The Master tapes section contains almost 1,600 entire tapes. Metadata for cuts and master tapes are available by clicking on the 'Metadata' link associated with each file. Metadata for master tapes are also included in the zip file for that tape. Metadata is explained in detail in WHOI Technical Report 92-31: SOUND Database of Marine Animal Vocalizations - Structure and Operations.

Crediting information

Sound files on this website are free to download for personal or academic (not commercial) use. Sound files and associated metadata should be credited as follows: "Watkins Marine Mammal Sound Database, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the New Bedford Whaling Museum."

New Bedford Whaling Museum Permission-to-Publish form
Contact at the New Bedford Whaling Museuam: Robert Rocha (rrocha@whalingmuseum.org)

Download instructions

File download procedures vary according to browser.

  Firefox and Internet Explorer: Left click on the download link.
  Chrome: Right click and choose 'Save link as'.
  Safari: Right click and choose 'Save video as'.

Master tapes can be downloaded by clicking on the associated zip file, which includes metadata in the form of txt files.

Important Caveats

Please note that, although preliminary quality checking of sound files has been carried out, some errors may remain in sample rates, cut sizes, or other metadata. If any are found or suspected, please contact watkinsarchive@whoi.edu.

In cases where scientific names at the time of the recording are no longer in use, these names are added parenthetically in the drop-down menus after the current, correct scientific names.

Due to the outdated and nonstandard format of the metadata, letters and codes may appear in some of the tables. These codes are described in the publication of the original DOS-based database WHOI Technical Report 92-31: SOUND Database of Marine Animal Vocalizations - Structure and Operations.