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Feeling Lost Sounds

WABASH TOWNSHIP, IN. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- For many people, living in a noisy world is a way of life. Escaping sounds of traffic, construction, and crowds isn’t always easy. Hearing birds sing at dawn and crickets chirp at dusk is getting harder and harder to find. Now, we’ll tell you how scientists are tapping into nature’s sounds and what the sounds can tell us about our world.

The roar of traffic, and non-stop construction, we live in a noisy world of human made sounds. The loud noises we make can drown out natural sounds of the environment – like birds, frogs and other wildlife. Now, landscape ecologists are tuning in and listening to nature’s sounds in a way most of us don’t.

“I think what’s important is that natural sounds are an acoustic link to nature, and as we become more and more of an urban species, we sever that link,” Bryan Pijanowski, Ph.D., landscape ecologist at Purdue University told Ivanhoe.

Researchers at Purdue University are creating a new scientific field called soundscape ecology to focus on what sounds say about an area. Hearing sounds, or not hearing them can be an important indicator of environmental changes.

“What we want to do is try to understand how sounds can be a signal for threatened eco-systems,” Pijanowski said.

Scientists place microphones, on trees so that sounds can be continuously recorded from an area. The sounds are then analyzed to look for different sound patterns. The dawn and dusk choruses of wildlife can be typical of an area – if sound intensity or sound patterns change, there is likely something causing that change.

“If you’re out in the wetland and you don’t hear the frogs that means that there’s some threat to that particular organism that could be from climate change, or habitat destruction, or chemical contamination,” Dr. Pijanowski explained.

Researchers found more and more natural sounds are being replaced by constant man-made noise.

"We found that in areas that are urban and areas that are agricultural, we have very few biological sounds, they are dominated by low level sounds from engines and noise from vehicles,” Dr. Pijanowski concluded.

Capturing lost sounds may help us all get back to nature.

Due to urban sprawl, the animals most risk of extinction in the U.S are the Florida panther, some species of owls, the red leg frog and the pronghorn.

Click here to Go Inside This Science and View Video or contact:

Bryan Pijanowski, PhD
Professor Forestry & Natural Resources
Purdue University

December 2011 TV Reports
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Finding Lost Sounds

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Behind the Scenes with the K-Team

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Prior Reports
DBIS was a joint production of Ivanhoe Broadcast News and the American Institute of Physics from January 2005 - December 2011.
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