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Tim Stanton

Dr. Timothy K. Stanton

Scientist Emeritus
Dept. Applied Ocean Physics & Engineering

Contact Information:
Work: 508-289-2757
Building: Bigelow

Mailing Address:
98 Water St., MS #11
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Woods Hole, MA 02543-1053

Overview of my research

I study the physics of the acoustical scattering by complex objects. The research has been principally focused on acoustic scattering by marine organisms, such as zooplankton and fish, although I have also studied acoustic scattering by the seafloor, sea ice, and microstructure. In order to address the complexities of this important topic, I develop analytical physics-based models, conduct laboratory experiments, and conduct at-sea experiments. The complexity lies in the fact that the acoustic "targets" are normally quite irregular in shape. Consider, for example, euphausiids that have the shape of shrimp, or pteropods that have the shape of a snail. Exact mathematical models of scattering normally involve a simple shape such as a sphere or infinitely long cylinder. However, predictions of scattering by such simple objects sometimes deviate significantly from the scattering by the actual irregular objects. My research is therefore focused on developing accurate (approximate) scattering models by realistic objects. Given the challenges associated with modeling realistic objects, I keep the development of the models grounded with laboratory data. In collaboration with biologists, I apply the models to data collected at sea where acoustics is used as one of the tools for characterizing distributions of marine life.

Signal processing is also integral to the research as the scattering analyses are both in the spectral and time domains, and involve matched filter processing and echo statistics.  The scattering by objects in the ocean is stochastic and I have connected fundamental physical scattering processes to key parameters of the echo statistics.  As a result, the statistical formulations are predictive and are based on known properties of the scatterer, sonar system, and propagation environment.

Papers that summarize my research:

1986 Stanton, T.K. and C.S. Clay, "Sonar echo statistics as a remote sensing tool: Volume and Sea Floor, " IEEE J. Oceanic Eng. OE-11, 79-96.  Much work has been done on this topic since—see, for example, the 2018 tutorial listed below.

2000 Stanton, T.K. and D. Chu, “Review and recommendations for modeling of acoustic scattering by fluid-like elongated zooplankton: Euphausiids and copepods ,” ICES J. Mar. Sci. 57(4), 793-807.

2009 Stanton, T.K., “Broadband acoustic sensing of the ocean,” J. Marine Acoustic. Soc. Jpn. 36, 95-107.  This includes a summary of our scattering model development.

2012 Stanton, T.K., “30 years of advances in active bioacoustics: A personal perspective,“ Methods in Oceanography, doi:10.1016/j.mio.2012.07.002, 49-77.  This comes with a video presentation summarizing the paper.

2018 Stanton, T.K., W.-J. Lee, and K. Baik, “Echo statistics associated with discrete scatterers: A
tutorial on physics-based methods,” J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 144, 3124-3171.  This is open access and includes all software used in the predictions.

Press Release on Fish Acoustics Research.

Some details of the research Why acoustics?

Opportunities for students in my laboratory:

WHOI is an accredited institution of higher education.  To date, more than 900 advanced degrees have been awarded by WHOI.   Most of the degrees have been doctoral and the rest are at the masters level.  Most of the advanced degrees are through the joint graduate education program between MIT and WHOI.  At any given time, I advise 1-3 doctoral or masters graduate students.  I welcome applications from students from a variety of backgrounds, including Physics, Applied Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, and Electrical Engineering.  The deadline for applications to the graduate program is normally in early January of each year.  However, it is vital to contact me much earlier to discuss your interests.  For more details on the graduate program and application, see the WHOI Academic program website.



Ph.D.:  Physics, Brown University, Providence, RI

M.S.:  Physics, Brown University, Providence, RI

B.S.: Physics, Oakland University, Rochester, MI


Dr. Tim Stanton has more than 40 years of experience in the area of underwater acoustics.  He received the B.S. degree in Physics at Oakland University, Rochester, MI and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Physics at Brown University, Providence, R.I.  He conducted research in acoustics both as an undergraduate (solid state acoustics) and graduate student (underwater nonlinear acoustics).   After completing graduate school, he began his professional career at the Submarine Signal Division of Raytheon Co. (Portsmouth, R.I.) where he simulated and tested the performance of various advanced active sonar systems for autonomous underwater vehicles. After that work, Dr. Stanton focused principally on developing methods to use acoustics as a tool in oceanography, first at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), and then at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution where he is currently a scientist.

Stanton’s research in acoustical oceanography has focused on developing analytical models, using fundamental physical principals, to describe acoustic scattering by various natural sources of scattering in the ocean, principally involving various types of biota such as fish, zooplankton, and benthic shells, but also physical microstructure, the seafloor, sea surface, and sea ice.  He has developed the models in concert with laboratory measurements (on land and at sea), as well as with acoustic survey data measured in the ocean in which there were independent “ground truth” data collected such as through net sampling.  In addition to the modeling of acoustic scattering, throughout his studies he has related the statistical variability of the echoes to statistical properties of the scatterers such as random orientation and patchiness (biology) and roughness (seafloor and sea ice).  The experimental work (lab and sea) involved development and use of various broadband acoustic methods, including identifying dominant scattering mechanisms of marine organisms, resonance classification of swimbladder-bearing fish, and calibration of broadband acoustic systems.  While his principal “product” has been scholarship, he has also transitioned his innovations into commercial products at three companies and several Navy products (Stand-off sensors and sonar trainers) for NAVSEA and NAVAIR.

In addition to his research, Dr. Stanton has been Chair of his department (Dept. of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering—more than 100 full-time professionals), Associate Editor or Guest Associate Editor of three scientific journals (JASA, IEEE JOE, and DSR), Chair or Co-Chair of two scientific conferences (The Oceanography Society and Oceanology International), and taught acoustic scattering theory in the MIT/WHOI Joint Graduate Education Program and bioacoustics at the UW Friday Harbor Laboratories for 20 years.