Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New scientific field will study ecological importance of sounds

Date:
March 23, 2011
Source:
Purdue University
Summary:
Researchers are aiming 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.

Luis J. Villanueva-Rivera, from right, Bryan Pijanowski and Sarah Dumyahn collect data from a remote listening post that records sounds from the surrounding area.
Credit: Purdue Agricultural Communication photo/Tom Campbell

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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Purdue University. The original article was written by Brian Wallheimer. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Bryan C. Pijanowski, Luis J. Villanueva-Rivera, Sarah L. Dumyahn, Almo Farina, Bernie L. Krause, Brian M. Napoletano, Stuart H. Gage, and Nadia Pieretti. Soundscape Ecology: The Science of Sound in the Landscape. BioScience, (in press)

Cite This Page:

Purdue University. "New scientific field will study ecological importance of sounds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110301122154.htm>.
Purdue University. (2011, March 23). New scientific field will study ecological importance of sounds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110301122154.htm
Purdue University. "New scientific field will study ecological importance of sounds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110301122154.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts

New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts

AP (July 21, 2014) New Orleans is the first U.S. city to participate in a large-scale recycling effort for cigarette butts. The city is rolling out dozens of containers for smokers to use when they discard their butts. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

AP (July 21, 2014) A rise in shark sightings along the shores of Chatham, Massachusetts is driving a surge of eager vacationers to the beach town looking to catch a glimpse of a great white. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spectacular Lightning Storm Hits London

Spectacular Lightning Storm Hits London

AFP (July 19, 2014) A spectaCular lightning storm struck the UK overnight Friday. Images of lightning strikes over the Shard and Tower Bridge in central London. Duration: 00:23 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

AFP (July 19, 2014) As if it weren't enough that the Queen is the Sovereign of the UK and 15 other Commonwealth realms, she is also the owner of all Britain's unmarked swans. Duration: 02:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins