Dr. Megan McKenna is a marine scientist and educator with more than a decade of experience working at the intersection of science and policy. Megan is a leader in ocean soundscape research and serves on national and international committees to develop standards and frameworks for a quieter future. To implement these solutions, Dr. McKenna has listened and continues to listen above and below water through collaborative projects at regional, national, and international scales.

McKenna earned her PhD from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and went on to work for the US Marine Mammal Commission in DC and then the US National Park Service based in Colorado. Returning to the California coast, Megan continues her research as a data scientist affiliated with NOAA National Center for Environmental Information and with collaborators at US National Marine Sanctuary and California Ocean Alliance.

Megan teaches for various programs offered through Middlebury Institute of International Studies, including the California Coast and Climate Semester, graduate program in Environmental Policy and Management, and Middlebury School of the Environment. Megan serves as the Academic Director for the Study Away at Monterey, supporting undergraduates studying at the Monterey campus.

Areas of Interest

I am fascinated by sound— what we can learn from it, how it shapes the world around us, and what our future world might sound like. I have listened and continue to listen both above and below water through collaborative projects at regional, national, and international scales.

Soundscapes offer a unique window into an ecosystem and a view of the biotic, abiotic, and anthropogenic features with important applications in our changing world. My most recent research project, the Sanctuary Soundscape Monitoring Project, brought the diversity and beauty of underwater sounds in U.S. national marine sanctuaries to resource managers, the public, and the broader research community. My dedication to listening enters my classroom, where I strive to encourage students to use their unique voices to address complex environmental challenges facing our oceans.

Within the broad field of marine science and policy, my expertise centers around ocean noise, marine mammals, and protected areas. Within these intersecting fields, I work to catalyze collaborative teams across disciplines, harness big data for decision support, and create effective communication products with the goal of building pathways to solutions.


Academic Degrees

  • PhD in Biological Oceanography from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego | 2011
  • MS in Evolutional Biology from San Diego State University | 2005
  • BA in Biology and Environmental Studies from Wittenberg University | 2000

Professor McKenna started teaching at the Institute in Fall 2022