James J. Finneran

Acoustical Society of America

R. Bruce Lindsay Award


James J. Finneran

James J. Finneran completed his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering with a Minor in History at the Ohio State University in June 1990. Jim was interested in bio-applications of mechanical engineering and quickly became acquainted with acoustics by studying ultrasonic fields controlled by conical waveguides.

After completing his thesis and M.S. degree just five quarters later, Jim continued his studies for the Ph.D. at Ohio State. His education in acoustics was further enhanced the following summer when the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) and Office of Naval Research (ONR) sponsored his attendance at the Physical Acoustics Summer School in Monterey, California. That summer we also began a collaboration with Art Poper's Laboratory at the University of Maryland, for an ONR-sponsored study of the effects of man-made sound on the oscar, a teleost (i.e., bony) fish. For these experiments Jim designed, built and instrumented a 15-meter long underwater wave-guide and became an expert on handling fish in our lab. Jim also led the development of a computer simulation for underwater dipole acoustic fields for use by Sheryl Coombs at Parmly Hearing Institute. This was used to study detection mechanisms of the lateral line in the mottled sculpin. Thus, after another year and a half of graduate studies, Jim was hooked on fish.

For his doctoral research, Jim developed the first comprehensive mathematical analysis and computer simulation of the peripheral auditory system biomechanics in goldfish. His formulation starts with the underwater acoustic source and follows the transduction pathways through the peripheral system all the way to bending of the apical ciliary bundles of hair cells in the inner ear. To determine unknown material properties needed for this analysis, Jim undertook a major experimental effort to measure the in vivo response of the goldfish peripheral auditory organs to an underwater acoustic source. For these experiments he developed an actively controlled waveguide to simulate an unbounded plane wave in the laboratory, and enhanced a noninvasive vibration amplitude measurement system (NIVAMS) to include measurement of phase. His experimental measurements of displacement in the inner ear of goldfish correlate almost perfectly with hearing sensitivity determined in behavioral experiments as reported in the literature by other researchers. Jim graduated in June 1997, but his work provided the foundation for continuing research and future development of computer simulations for auditory systems in other teleost species. His thesis was clearly outstanding and led to several papers in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (JASA).

In 1997, Jim was awarded the ASA's F. V. Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship in Acoustics, which took him to the Biosciences Division of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego, California. There he studied the transmission and reception of echolocation pulses by dolphins under the guidance of Sam Ridgway in the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program. Following completion of the Hunt Fellowship, Jim was awarded two sequential postdoctoral fellowships from the National Research Council to continue and expand his research. Jim became so invaluable to the marine mammal research program that he continues his work there today.

In less than five years at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Jim has made major contributions to marine mammal bioacoustics, with several more publications in JASA. After revamping the experimental design and the data acquisition and analysis systems, he led studies to determine changes in behavior and auditory thresholds shifts in dolphins and whales resulting from nearby intense sounds and impulsive sounds resembling distant underwater explosions. The resulting data are the first to provide direct information about the effects of these sounds on the hearing abilities of marine mammals. Jim was the first to quantitatively evaluate how far away tuna could detect audible sounds, such as clicks and tail slaps, produced by dolphins and other marine mammals. Jim has recently published results of this experimental investigation of the relative contributions of acoustic pressure and particle velocity to the low-frequency hearing capabilities of dolphins and whales. These are the first to show that hearing threshold data for these animals should be reported in units of acoustic pressure rather than intensity. This finding will help to globally standardize testing and reporting of such data.

Jim has been a member of ASA since 1991. In May 1991 he took his very first plane trip to attend the 121st Meeting in Baltimore where he made his first technical presentation outside Ohio State. Since that time, he has made presentations at nearly every Society meeting. In addition he has become an active and respected member of the Animal Bioacoustics Technical Committee. Jim's love of marine mammal acoustics is rivaled only by his love of football, especially Ohio State football. He returns to Columbus at least once a year to see a home football game and maintains an active e-mail list to critique and replay all the games with his family and friends. He is the only acoustician I know who talks acoustics just as easily and with the same enthusiasm as he talks football. Jim remains a true Buckeye at heart.

One of the great things about Jim is that he not only understands, but he can also apply the principles of acoustics to all types of systems and problems. He possesses a tremendous breadth and firm knowledge of acoustics, which gives him the capability to investigate and contribute in many areas. For example, he easily merges the concepts of underwater acoustics, engineering acoustics, physical acoustics, structural acoustics, and physiological and psychological acoustics with animal bioacoustics to study the hearing of marine animals. He is a unique and outstanding researcher in this field and a most worthy recipient of the R. Bruce Lindsay Award.