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The field of underwater acoustics has changed significantly since Colladan and Sturm first measured the speed of sound in Lake Geneva. With the advent of computer technology, computational acoustics was born allowing for predictive models of acoustic propagation and scattering in complex environments. This field is currently burgeoning as evidenced by the creation of a new Technical Specialty Group at the Acoustical Society of America dedicated to cross-disciplined research in computational acoustics. These methods can now predict three-dimensional acoustics propagation and reverberation in complex areas using finite elements, spectral elements and parabolic equation methods. As the ocean became better understood and parameterized, describing the environment became increasingly important. This included understanding reflection and scattering from the ocean bottom and surface as well as scattering from discrete objects in the water column such as bubbles, suspended sediment and fish. In particular, understanding the different frequency responses of the water column scatterers aids in assessing sediment transport in rivers, tracking tidal events and determining fish populations. Lastly, as the field of underwater acoustics evolved, so did its applications. It can now be used to assess ecosystem health, distinguish first-year and multi-year Arctic ice, and understand tidal activity in riverine environments. The future of underwater acoustics remains as unbounded today as it did the day the Colladan and Sturm crouched in their boats measuring Lake Geneva. Due to fundamental laws of physics, acoustics will always be the primary tool for communication, remote sensing and environmental assessment in our rivers and oceans. We should develop our capabilities to monitor the health of the earth by quantifying underwater carbon capture, assessing coral reef health, and keeping track of the changing Arctic by continuing work on modeling and understanding acoustic propagation and scattering in complicated and complex environments.
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