Page 48 - Summer2019
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Ask an Acoustlclan
at nearby Point Mugu. There, the Navy was starting a study What makes you a good acoustician?
on marine mammal hydrodynamics, diving, and sonar, and I stay in my own lane. When I have a problem, I ask my many
I became Animal Health Officer. Excited by this challenge, friends in acoustics for help. A good acoustician must be
I have been with the Navy Marine Mammal Program since, involved in the field and must communicate with colleagues.
except for a fellowship to earn a PhD in neurobiology at the
University of Cambridge, UK. How do you handle rejection?
I immediately look for a work-around. I do not give up. lfl
What is a typical day for you? get lemons, I try and make lemonade.
Before breakfast, I sit and grab my laptop and check two email
accounts. After breakfast, I try and answer emails that are What are you proudest nfin your career?
mostly from my coworkers. Later, I go in to the oflice for meet- Some colleagues call me the father of marine mammal
ings with our diflerent teams. I look out on our dolphin and medicine. When, as a military veterinary oflicer and recent
sea lion areas and enjoy seeing boats coming to and fro talcing graduate, I was handed the task of keeping Navy marine
animals out to sea for their daily ocean work In between, I try mammals healthy, I had no knowledge of the subject and
and get some work on reports and papers. These days, I am at few resources to guide me. There were no other veterinarians
the office only 4 or 5 hours and then go back home. working full time in the field. My elforts were supported by
many mentors who knew the science but not the medicine.
Twenty to 50 years ago, my day was quite different. I would From such beginnings, we erected marine mammal medicine.
make rounds, checking all the animals, and perhaps go to sea Well over 100 individuals around the world practice it today.
for a test or experiment. I describe this in The Dolphin Doctor
(Ridgway, 198 7). We learned how to safely handle and treat dolphins in a safe
and humane manner. For example, development of safe anes-
How do you feel when experiments projects do not work out thesia allowed studies of the ear and brain that could not
the way you expected them to? be done otherwise. Thus, medical knowledge served science.
Some of my earliest experiments did not work out the wayl In 1965, I published a safe and humane method of dolphin
expected. It was very exciting to me! I had to learn more and anesthesia (Ridgway, 1965; McCormick and Ridgway, 2018).
find out why. On the recommendation of W. E. (Bill) Schevill of Woods
Hole, MA, E. G. Wever of Princeton, NJ (see acousticstoday.
Do you feel like you have solved the work-life balance org/7408-2), and his graduate student James McCormick
problem? Was it always this way? sought me out to work with them on dolphin hearing mech-
I was once given an award by some college classmates at a anisms. McCormick spent two summers with me at Point
reunion: “Made It with Limited Capabilities.” I quote from Mugu perfecting methods. Then I got to work several produc-
one of my mentors: “Sam possessed an inexhaustible energy tive periods at the Princeton Auditory Research Laboratories.
along with awide-ranging curiosity, an inventive mind, and In the late 19505, Jim Simmons, Iim Saunders, and Richard
adngged persistence. He worked all day at the facility, usually Fay were also there. It was an exciting time. On occasion,
came in on vimekends to check the animals and administer McCormick and I would work around the clock to complete
needed medication, and spent his evenings writing technical an experiment. The experiments revealed not only the physi-
papers. Within three years he had acquired an international ology of dolphin hearing but also the structure of the dolphin
reputation in the held of marine mammal medicine, and a cochlea (McCormick et aL, 1970; Wever et aL, 1971).
couple of years later he was also becoming known as a physi-
ologist” (Wood, 1973). The Princeton experiments baptized me in acoustics. in
the 1970s, Don Carder, Bob Seeley, and I developed some
Fortunately, my wife Jeanette was an English teacher (later a methods for electrophysiological tests of dolphin hearing.
college professor at the University of California, Los Angeles) We made many proposals to test this method on beached
who also had after hours work to do. Not long after our mar- whales and dolphins. Along with C. Scott Iohnson, we fre-
riage in 1960, we learned we could not have children. Thus, quently needled our Navy sponsors about supporting more
life and work were intertwined in such a way as to allow for work on whale and dolphin hearing. In more recent years,
play in many gaps. our primitive methods have been made effective and modem
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