March 2020 OES Beacon

Who’s who in the OES (March 2020)

Christopher Whitt, OES AdCom. member

Figure 1. Preparing an ice drifting acoustic array for deployment in Svalbard.

I have been around the ocean my whole life. I was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, and in 2003, I settled in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Since 2007, I have worked for JASCO Applied Sciences, an international consulting company that specializes in measuring sound in the ocean.

In my 13 years with JASCO, I have worked on many aspects of passive acoustic monitoring. First, with deploying sound recorders in oceans around the world and developing our in-house instrumentation. I then helped develop automated processing of sound recordings, as well as the procedures for our ISO9001 quality system. Recently, I’ve been training JASCO’s field staff and managing projects.

Figure 2. My dogs Piper, Brooklyn, and Shenzi (L to R).

Music and acoustics have been common threads in my life. I learned to play bass guitar in junior high school. I played in various bands and church groups through high school and university, and then expanded a little to double bass. I was a member of the Newfoundland Symphony Youth Orchestra and the Memorial University Jazz Ensemble, and briefly played with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra.

My parents gave me a love of travel from a young age. We lived for four years in Liberia, West Africa, when I was a child. Later, I lived for a year in Doha, Qatar. Between work, family trips, and now IEEE, I have visited many countries, including a lot of unusual places like Alaska, Greenland, and Svalbard. When I’m not traveling or playing frisbee, I’m usually found at home spending time with my family and our three dogs.

My involvement with music eventually led to volunteering. After starting to play music, I also learned to operate sound and lighting systems and then started training others to do the same. During my undergraduate studies in Electrical Engineering at Memorial University of Newfoundland, I joined IEEE and soon became vice-chair and eventually chair of the Student Branch. After moving to Halifax, I became involved in the sport of Ultimate Frisbee. For several years, I was chair of the Halifax Ultimate community. I became active with the IEEE Canadian Atlantic Section and was Section Chair in 2016. After that, I was Area East Chair for Region 7.

Figure 3. Deploying a real-time acoustic buoy in western Canada

In addition to serving on OES AdCom, I am currently the IEEE Canada (Region 7) Secretary as well as the Program Chair for Sections Congress 2020. I enjoyed working with many of my fellow OES members on the OceanObs19 Community White Paper Future Vision for Autonomous Ocean Observations. Following that experience, I’ve participated in several meetings to plan for the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development ( The Ocean Decade is a framework for professionals across many fields to identify priorities and coordinate ocean research for the next decade. Engineering and technology will be essential to transforming ocean observations needed to better understand and manage our oceans, which are so important for life on this planet. OES is planning various activities to support the Ocean Decade. Look for more information at OCEANS conferences, in The Beacon and in Earthzine.

I look forward to many more years of connecting work, personal interests and volunteering with the ocean. Please contact me or any other society volunteer if you would like to get involved in OES activities.