Douglas P. Nowacek ’87


“During high school and even after graduation, I did not appreciate the preparation that Heights High gave to me. The teachers, coaches, and the diversity of students gave me a foundation that I did not appreciate until graduate school and beyond. To be recognized in this way by a place that provided the very foundation that propelled me is truly awesome.”

“…whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” ~ from Desiderata by Max Ehrmann

Doug, the Randolph K. Repass and Sally-Christine Rodgers University Distinguished Professor of Conservation Technology in Environment and Engineering, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, is a respected leader in the fields of marine conservation and marine bioacoustics. Doug’s research passions include oceans and technology, ecology and conservation, and economics, policy and governance. Regarding his work, he offers: “Sound propagates very efficiently through sea water, and marine mammals take advantage of this medium to communicate and explore their environment.” His current study is focused on the link between acoustic and motor behavior in marine mammals, primarily cetaceans and manatees, specifically, how they use sound in ecological processes. The cetaceans, or whales and dolphins, are divided into two main groups, the toothed whales (odontocetes) and the baleen whales (mysticetes). Specific areas of research study the use of echolocation and foraging behavior in one of the odontocetes, the bottlenose dolphin. Another focus area is exploring the effect(s) of anthropogenic noise on marine mammals. Regardless of his success, this “talented mammal legend” is known as an incredibly friendly, down-to-earth and supportive individual.


BA, Zoology, Ohio Wesleyan University
PhD, Oceanography, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

Current Occupation


  • Graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Ohio Wesleyan University
  • Received National Defense Science and Engineering graduate fellowship
  • Earned PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
  • Awarded the National Academies National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • Married to Spectacular Stephanie and have two awesome kids
  • Professor of Marine Science and Engineering at Duke University