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Matteo Bernasconi

Matteo started fishing around the Ticino River (IT) on small boats as a child with Grandpa and friends. The river stream brought him down to the University of Pavia where he studied Natural Resources Conservation and Management. Eventually, in those very formative years, he started the seaman career as cabin boy on a small Research Vessel in the Mediterranean Sea. Once he graduated in Italy with a thesis about the Mediterranean Fin whale's vocalizations, he worked from time to time as a Professional Diver, spent some time in Australia working on Cabbage Tree Island, and someday he made it to the wheelhouse of a Norwegian Ship as sonar operator with the Institute of Marine Research.  
Constantly involved offshore, seamanship training was constant as well as the access to the most modern fishing/research vessels equipment. Always under the supervision of experienced captains and technicians, in those years, granted the opportunity of collecting data while on watch, he developed a method to measure whales body reflectivity and model active acoustic detections of cetaceans. The result was a PhD in Oceanography at the University of St Andrews (Scotland).
​The work at sea continued with more responsibilities, ending up in charge of various operations in many offshore expeditions. Before funding Whales & Co. Matteo participated among others to the Pangaea initiative surveying the Chagos Archipelago in the BIOT, to the ACE (Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition) organized by the Swiss Polar Institute and again to Antarctica onboard the RV Polarstern, always representing the Pelagic Ecology Research Group of the University of St Andrews (Scotland). Arrived in the United States he worked as Senior Scientist at Biowaves Inc. investigating Sonar Beamforming.
After 30 years, he decided it was time to do things his way focusing on the two activities that has driven his life so far: Navigation and Science. For that reason, Matteo personally refits the RV Tortuga and accepted the new responsibilities as a Captain, with in mind the goal to promote eco-tourism while actively surveying the waters around the Channel Island National Marine Sanctuary in the hope to give a community service and help preserve our Oceans for the generations to come. 

Curriculum vitae
Matteo Bernasconi, PhD 


Methodology Design and Applied Technology in marine mammals  and fisheries  research

Passive  and  Active  Sonar  signal  processing

Natural Resources  and Conservation Managment
Mitigation of  human activities impact over marine wildlife 

 Scuba Diving techniques - NITROX Dec for Science


Variation of  Cetaceans sp. target strength (TS)  in relation to their kinematics,  physiology  and  behavior. 
Ecology: Prey-predator interaction of  marine  mammals  and  fish  in  coastal and pelagic  habitats.

Active  acoustic  techniques  for  the distribution assessment and management of  commercially important fish species and krill.

Calibration of acoustics transducers and CTD cast data analysis for scientific purposes.


Installation, Troubleshooting and Operations of Boats: Diesel engine, Hydraulic applications, Diving gears mantainance, Electric and Electronics circuits, Sonar (Active and Passive), Radar, GPS, Telemetry and sensors, Ethernet based applications.

PC Hardware assemby and programming, Microcontrollers, Matlab/Phyton coding and various other analysis softwares.



Univesity of St Andrews, UK

PhD in Biological Oceanography.

Thesis title: The use of active sonar to study cetaceans.


Universita' degli Studi di Pavia, IT

Bachelor (MSc Equivalent) in Nature Conservation and Managment

Thesis title: "Vocal activity of Balaenoptera physalus (Linnaeus, 1758) in the Ligurian Sea”

Technical memorandum: ” Satellite systems: GPS and GLONASS comparison”.


MERCHANT MARINER CREDENTIAL (Available upon request)





Professional Experience 

  • 2021 – present: Director of Operations at Whales & Co. LLC (Oxnard, CA)

  • 2019 - Sonar specialist - directing in-situ sonar operations  for the Macquarie University Marine Predator Research Group - Bermagui (Australia)

  • 2018 – 2020 Senior Scientist at Biowaves Incorporated (San Diego, CA)

  • 2018 (Mar-May) Acoustics Chief  Scientist  for  the PS112 Expedition  of  the  Alfred-Wegener  Institute  for polar research - RV Polarstern 

  • 2017 (Jan-Mar) Acoustic Chief  Scientist  for  the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE) - RV Akademik Tryoshnikov

  • 2005 – 2017 Associate Researcher/Scientist at the Institute of Marine Research (Bergen, Norway)

  • 2015 – 2016 Acoustic Chief  Scientist - Pangaea-Chagos Initiative: Monitor abundance of coral reef fish species - MY Pangaea Ocean Explorer

  • 2014- 2015 (Summer) second mate and sonar operation for IMR Coordinated Ecosystem survey of the Norwegian Sea - MV Brennholm

  • 2014 (Feb-Mar) Marine  Mammal  Observer  for  the  Nordic  Sea  Experiment  - RV Knorr

  • 2013 (Summer) Instruments operation coordinator and sonar operator for IMR Coordinated Ecosystem survey of the Norwegian Sea - MV Libas

  • 2012 (Autumn) Chief sonar operator for IMR Coordinated Ecosystem survey of the Norwegian Sea - MV Christina E

  • 2012 (Summer) second mate in training and sonar operations for IMR Coordinated Ecosystem survey of the Norwegian Sea - MV Brennholm

  • 2009-2011 (Summer)  sonar operator for IMR Coordinated Ecosystem survey of the Norwegian Sea - MV Libas

  • 2008 (Summer)  sonar operator for IMR Coordinated Ecosystem survey of the Norwegian Sea - MV Eros

  • 2008 (May) PERG (University of St Andrews) Acoustic personal -  Jellyfish Acoustics Survey of the Irish Sea - RV Prince Madog

  • 2007  Start the PhD  project:  “Use  of  scanning  sonars  as  quantitative  tools  for  cetaceans’ conservation and behavioural ecology studies” 

  • 2007 (Summer)  Sonar  Operator  for  IMR Coordinated  Ecosystem survey  of  the  Norwegian  Sea  - MV Eros

  • 2006 (Summer) PADI OWD  instructor and Scientific Advisor for PADI Project Aware divers at  Bluinfinito  Diving  Center  (Sardegna, Italy) 

  • 2005-2007 Guest  Investigator MAR-ECO project,  hosted by Dr. L Nøttestad, Dr. BE Axelsen and Dr. JO Krakstad (IMR Bergen, Norway) 

  • 2005 Crew - Sea trial:  Testing Thyborøen trawl doors inside Lindåspollen (Norway) to study herrings' schooling dynamics. RV Hans Brattstrøm

  • 2005-2006: Field  project - Vocalizations of the  Tucuxi Dolphin (Sotalia fluviatilis) in the  Gulf of Morrosquillo (Colombia)

  • 2004 Join the University of Milano Bicocca Physic Department in desiging a portable filter-preamplifier unit to record Cetaceans in the wild

  • 2003  (Jun-Oct) Dive  Master,  with  Aquarius  diving  school  (Coda  Cavallo,  Sardegna  Italy)

  • 2003  (Jan-Apr) Research Assistant - Project: The Gould petrel (Pterodoma leucoptera) of Cabbage Tree Island. Wollongong University, Australia

  • 2001 Research Assistant in dedicated ICRAM’s cruises to satellite tracking fin whales in the Ligurian Sea, Italy

  • 2000  Research  Assistant  -  NATO  project  “Sirena  2000” (SACLANTCEN - La Spezia, Italy) - Support Vessel RV  Bestiaccia

  • 1999-2002 Deckhand/Technician - Ligurian Sea Cetaceans Acoustics Surveys for ICRAM  (Italian Ministry of the Environment) - RV Bestiaccia

  • 1998 - 2000 Research Assistant - Professor Sergio Frugis Nature Conservation and Managment (University of Pavia, Italy)

Relevant Pubblications

  • Bernasconi M, Pedersen and AS Brierley (xxxx) Fluke prints and their role as classifier for real time active acoustic whale detections. In preparation for the J Acou Soc Am

  • Pauli NC, Flintrop CM, Konrad C, Pakhomov EA, Swoboda S, Koch F, Wang XL, Brierley AS, Bernasconi M, Meyer B and Iversen MH (2021) Krill and salp faecal pellets contribute equally to the carbon flux at the Antarctic Peninsula. Nat Commun 12, 7168 (2021).

  • Nøttestad L, Utne KR, Óskarsson GJ, Jónsson SÞ, Jacobsen JA, Tangen Ø, Anthonypillai V, Pena H, Bernasconi M, Debes H, Smith L, Sveinbjörnsson S, Holst JC and A Slotte (2016) Quantifying changes in abundance, biomass, and spatial distribution of Northeast Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) in the Nordic Seas 2007 to 2014. ICES J Mar Sci 72(2): 359-373

  • Nøttestad L, Krafft BA, Anthonpillai V, Tangen Ø, Langård L and M Bernasconi (2014) Observations of gadoid feeding by large whales in the Norwegian Sea. ICES CM 2014/j:07

  • Demer D (Ed), Berger L, Bernasconi M, Boswell K, Chu D, Domokos R, Dunford A, Fässler S, Gauthier S, Hufnagle L, Jech MJ, Melvin G, Korneliussen R, Le Bouffant N, Lebourges-Dhaussy A, Lurton X, Macaulay GJ, Ryan T, Parker-Stetter S, Stienessen S, Weber T and N Williamson (2014) Calibrations of Acoustic Instruments. ICES Cooperative Research Report No. 326, 136 pp.

  • Bernasconi M, Patel R, Pedersen G, Nøttestad L and Brierley AS (2013). The effect of depth on the target strength of a Humpback whale (Meagaptera novaengliae). J Acou Soc Am 134(6): 4316-4322

  • Bernasconi M, Patel R, Pedersen G, Nøttestad L and Brierley AS (2013). The effect of depth on the target strength of a Humpback whale (Meagaptera novaengliae). J Acou Soc Am 134(6): 4316-4322

  • Nøttestad L, Doksæter L, Krafft BA, Langård L, Anthonpillai V, Bernasconi M, Langøy H, Axelsen BE and Ferno A (2014) Prey selection of Killer whales (Orcinus orca) in the Northeast Atlantic in late summer: spatial association with mackerel. Mar Ecol Progr Ser 499: 275-283

  • Nøttestad L, Doksæter L, Krafft BA, Langård L, Anthonypillai V, Bernasconi M, Langøy H, Axelsen BE (2014) Ecological aspects of fin and humpback whale distribution during summer in the Norwegian Sea. Marine Ecology DOI: 10.1111/maec.12075

  • Bernasconi M, Patel R, Nøttestad L and Brierley AS (2013). Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) target strength measurements. Mar Mam Sci 29(3): 371-388.

  • Bernasconi M, Patel R and Nøttestad L (2012) Behavioral observations of baleen whales in proximity of a modern fishing vessel. In Effects of Noise on Aquatic Life. Popper AN and Hawkins A eds Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, New York. pp: 335-338.

  • Bernasconi M, Nøttestad L, Krakstad JO and Axelsen BE (2011) Dusky dolphins (Lagenorhyncus obscurus) hunting Cape horse mackerel (Trachurus trachurus capensis) in the northern Benguela Region: acoustic observation of predator-prey interactions. Mar Ecol Progr Ser 429: 209-218.

  • Nøttestad L, Patel R, Anthonypillai V, Tangen Ø, Henriksen I, Wennevik V, Ellersten B, Erices J, Langøy H, Bernasconi M, Petterson L, Golyak I, Holm M, Gill H, Pena H, Alvarez J, Skjold B, Hansen K, Kristiansen J, Johannessen M, Bente Martinussen M, Løkka G, Mulligan B and Holst JC (2009) Cruise report from the coordinated ecosystem survey and SALSEA salmon project with M/V ”Libas” and M/V ”Eros in the Norwegian Sea, 15 July - 6 August 2009. Havforsknings Instituttet survey number 2009818 (Libas) and 2009820 (Eros). Bergen, Norway.

  • Nøttestad L, Pena H, Totland A, Gastauer S, Tangen Ø, Anthonypillai V, Petterson L, Patel R and Bernasconi M (2010) Toktrapport Havforskningsinstituttet. Nr.7-2010. ISSN 1503-6294.

  • Bernasconi M, Patel R, Nøttestad L, Knudsen FR and Brierley AS (2009) Use of active sonar for cetacean conservation and behavioral-ecology studies: a paradox? Proceedings of the Institute of Acoustics Vol. 31 Pt.1. Loughbotough, UK.

  • Bernasconi M, Nøttestad L, Krakstad JO and Axelsen BE (2007) In situ target strength (TS) measurements of a small cetacean: target tracking of individual dusky dolphins (Lagenorhyncus obscurus) in deep water. 17th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, Cape Town, South Africa, December 2007.

  • Bernasconi M, Dussan-Duque S, DiIorio L and Passerini A (2005) Vocal behaviour of marine Tucuxi dolphins (Sotalia fluviatilis) in the Gulf of Morrosquillo, Colombia (Caribbean Sea). 16th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, San Diego, California (also presented at SOLAMAC-LAJAM, Rio de Janeiro June 2006).


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