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 Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

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: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>