Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New scientific field will study ecological importance of sounds

02.03.2011
A Purdue University researcher is leading an effort to create a new scientific field that will use sound as a way to understand the ecological characteristics of a landscape and to reconnect people with the importance of natural sounds.

Soundscape ecology, as it's being called, will focus on what sounds can tell people about an area. Bryan Pijanowski, an associate professor of forestry and natural resources and lead author of a paper outlining the field in the journal BioScience, said natural sound could be used like a canary in a coal mine. Sound could be a critical first indicator of environmental changes.

Pijanowski said sound could be used to detect early changes in climate, weather patterns, the presence of pollution or other alterations to a landscape.

"The dawn and dusk choruses of birds are very characteristic of a location. If the intensity or patterns of these choruses change, there is likely something causing that change," Pijanowski said. "Ecologists have ignored how sound that emanates from an area can help determine what's happening to the ecosystem."

Part of his research will be to capture sounds that are being lost and attempting to restore their value to people. Pijanowski said natural sounds such as birds chirping, wind rustling through leaves and even the absence of noise not only have aesthetic significance, but also can give people valuable information about what's happening around them.

Pijanowski has already begun some of the soundscape ecology work in various natural and human-dominated landscapes around Tippecanoe County in Indiana. More than 35,000 recordings were used to characterize the rhythms of the natural sound and how varying degrees of human development affected those rhythms. One of the most significant findings was that as human impact in the landscape increases, the natural rhythms of sound created by the diverse wildlife population are replaced by low and constant human-produced noise.

"As we continue to become more and more urban, we get used to the urban sounds which are mostly just noise. We're so used to blocking out noise that we block out the natural sounds as well," Pijanowski said. "Animals create sounds for a reason: to convey information. Noise carries no information with it generally. The sound of a car passing by is important, but it is simply making noise as a result of friction. The noise it makes has no information. It's not an intentional signal being produced by a sentient being."

Pijanowski said society has become more visual and he wants to restore the importance of sound to our experiences. He said psychologists call the broader disconnect Nature Deficient Disorder, and Pijanowski believes that reconnecting with sounds will open doors to reconnecting with nature - something he views as important to being environmentally conscious.

"If we disconnect with the sounds of nature, will we continue to respect and sustain nature?" Pijanowski said.

While Pijanowski is eager to develop research projects in soundscape ecology, he acknowledged a few challenges associated with starting a new scientific field.

There is no established vocabulary for the field, and Pijanowski anticipates creating new terminology and has already borrowed from related fields. For example, he uses the terms "biophony" (the sounds created by organisms) and "geophony" (the sounds of non-biological entities such as wind and thunder) from the field of acoustic ecology, which focuses on using natural sounds to create musical compositions.

This new field is able to move forward because computerized sensor technologies are becoming reliable and cost-effective. Soundscape ecology is dependent on sensor technology and custom software. To bolster interest, Pijanowski is making software tools and sound file examples available to help researchers interested in becoming involved in the research.

"It is really difficult to find people who think the same way since it's such a new field," Pijanowski said. "There are really only a handful of us so far. But we believe in the science and hope to attract others who will make significant contributions."

Those others will come from a wide array of fields. Pijanowski said he'll work with researchers in spatial ecology, land-use planning, conversation biology, bioacoustics, cognitive psychology, informatics and acoustic engineering, to name a few.

Writer: Brian Wallheimer, 765-496-2050, bwallhei@purdue.edu

Source: Bryan Pijanowski, 765-496-2215, bpijanow@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Keith Robinson, robins89@purdue.edu

Brian Wallheimer | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.purdue.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

nachricht A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>