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Listening to Environmental Change

July 16, 2013

Automated nature recordings track the effects of climate change and habitat disturbance.



The sounds of a changing ecosystem. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(SFX: Sounds of Sabana Seca)

Researcher Carlos Corrada sets up an antenna at La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica. (Mitch Aide)

If you really listen when you’re out in nature, you’ll notice that each place has a unique set of sounds. Researchers are using those sounds to assess how different environments respond to human development and climate change over time. Biologists have teamed up with computer scientists to develop a network of automated acoustic monitoring stations. They use iPods to record one minute of natural sounds every 10 minutes, according to University of Puerto Rico tropical ecologist Mitch Aide.


And it allows the biologist to collect data 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, throughout the year.


An antenna automatically uploads the sound files to a website, where large amounts of data can be rapidly analyzed. Monitoring which species are present over long periods of time will help scientists understand how ecosystems respond to environmental disturbances. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.