March 2021 OES Beacon

Who’s who in the IEEE OES (March 2021)

Hari Vishnu, Editor-in-Chief of Earthzine   

With my wife Sharadha at Seattle after the conference.

Some of you know me as the Editor-in-Chief of Earthzine (earthzine.org), or as one of the YP-BOOST awardees for 2019-2020, an organizer at Singapore AUV challenge, or simply as the curious guy who hangs around chitchatting and making horrible puns at OCEANS conferences. Indeed, I swear by puns – my Whatsapp status reads “A pun is mightier than the sword”. My twitter profile reads “Acoustics Researcher, National Univ. of Singapore. Visiting researcher, Scripps. Chief Editor, Earthzine. Big appetite, broad tastes: Sci|Tech|Env, & nowadays, Covid.”, and is usually a feed of Earth news, OES updates, climate change advocacy and science communication from my lab (Acoustic Research Lab – ARL). My Instagram avatar shows a very different guy who posts on his gardening adventures. My Facebook is, well, a mishmash of all of the above.

TLDR: ARL, Acoustics, Singapore, Signal processing, Machine Learning, Earthzine, SAUVC, Social media, Climate advocacy, Puns, Food, Movies and Anime, Gardening.

I’ve always wanted to be into science (probably research) and teaching, thanks to my Mom. But like many others, I didn’t know that Ocean science and engineering is where I’d end up. During the final years of my Bachelors at National Institute of Technology, Calicut in India (2004-08), I enjoying doing some successful projects. So I decided to look into postgraduate study/research options, when a Ph.D opportunity in Ocean acoustic signal processing came up, with a Prof. in Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. That’s when I decided to do some digging. We had been taught some signal processing courses in our Bachelors, but nothing really tuned to underwater environments.

On the other hand, it looked obvious that the Oceans which cover 71% of Earth’s surface could do with some more exploration. But it wasn’t clear to me why ocean exploration seemed to be happening at a slower pace than, say, space exploration, and why oceanic engineering was not given much space even at a bachelors level. Perhaps it was these questions that led me to take up that Ph. D, and from then on, embark on a research career in underwater signal processing.

By the time I landed in ARL, the breadth of ocean sciences and engineering blew my mind. This was a good combo with my FOMO – fear of missing out (as my friends have diagnosed me). Before I knew it, I was dabbling in all sorts of projects at ARL – I went from signal processing to propagation modeling to passive sonar to mineral exploration to machine learning to active sonar to dolphin biological sonar to Arctic cryo-acoustics to passive-acoustic-monitoring. Looking back, the rides have been snaky, but I appreciate the broad domain knowledge it has given me. It put me in touch with many different collaborators from many different fields, and gave me more confidence to operate in this already vast field. And it gave me opportunity to travel, which I loved (though that has reduced in the past few years).

From 2019-2020, I also got an opportunity to be at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography as a Visiting scholar. Scripps has always been one of my dream institutions. San Diego and its calm ocean beauty did not fail to impress, and neither did my times working with Dr. Grant Deane on the problem of the noisy melting glaciers in polar regions, and processing the sound they produce to understand their melting. It was a good change, and helped me get a good perspective on my postdoc years at Singapore (which are still not over yet). And San Diego beer.. lovely!

Ofcourse, OES is a big part of my life. I got involved in OES in Singapore, where we always had some activity or the other happening (in the pre-covid era, that is). The Singapore AUV challenge (sauvc.org), in particular, was a big part of our lives, and we have spent a good many meetings and time strategizing how to put together a good competition while not forgetting to have fun. And all those events have been very fun and satisfying experiences, putting us in touch with a large student community that was obviously in need of mentoring. If you attend one of these events and catch the spirits of those kids making their robot do unbelievable things, you will see what I mean! So, I heavily encourage you to get involved in OES and its several outreach, leadership, mentoring and scicomm activities.

Compering at Singapore AUV challenge 2019
Me (left) and (some of my) homies at the OCEANS promotion booth at Seattle.

I was already exploring science communication and forming my social media strategy, when the opportunity to do social media management for OES came up. Obviously, I took it with both hands! The deeper I got into OES, Earthzine became more appealing as a vehicle of scicomm, and I happily took up its editorship in 2019. For me, it filled a huge gap –the common public simply needed to know how important Oceans were to their lives, and that Oceans were really under-explored. Oceanic exploration has had few or no Moon-landing moments (the closest might be James Cameron’s foray into the Mariana trench). This was a lack of awareness which needed fixing. I feel my entry into Earthzine coincided well with the UN’s decision to make this the Decade of Ocean sciences, and I really hope to contribute to expanding awareness on how important Oceans are to human existence.

Apart from my life in science, scicomm and OES, I also spend time in gardening, watching movies and anime (and going all geeky on them) and playing the flute. Gardening is one of my favorite outlets – it goes well with my environmentalist leanings. So, that’s me! If you want to know more about me, you can check out my page at

arl.nus.edu.sg/twiki6/bin/view/ARL/HariVishnu  !

I also tweet at @harivn .