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Soundscape Ecology

April 4, 2011

An emerging scientific field studies the ecology of sound.



Audio-ecology…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

[SFX: Soundscape recording]

Recordings of nature sounds, like this one, are sometimes used for relaxation.  But for Purdue Universty soundscape ecologist Bryan Pijanowski of Purdue University, they’re an underused scientific tool.  He and his colleagues have audio recorders running round-the-clock in various habitats.  Generally speaking, he says the healthier ecosystems have a wider variety of sounds – filling up the sound frequency spectrum like radio broadcasts.

BRYAN PIJANOWSKI (Purdue University):

When you’re in the woods you hear a lot of organisms of course, but as you move into more human-dominated areas, there’s very little natural vegetation for organisms to sing from, for example – and so they’re just not there.


He says changes in a habitat’s soundtrack can be an early sign of ecological damage.  Soundscape ecologists are also studying the effects of man-made noise, like traffic, that can drown out animal communications.  I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.