Conservation Scientists Listening to Nature's Sounds

The world is noisy.

In cities, we find ourselves constantly surrounded by the moan of motors, the screech of sirens, and the prattle of people. So much so, that we often crave the peace and quiet of the countryside.

But silence is hard to find, even in nature. Animals chirp, roar, squeak, squawk, and howl to attract mates, defend territories, locate prey or even just find their way around. Wind whistles, rain hammers and streams gurgle. The sea thunders. Even under the water’s surface, a cacophony of unknown snaps, boings, ripples and other melodies still surround you.

Together, this symphony is the natural soundscape.

Scientists can use acoustic sensors to monitor anything from an entire soundscape all the way down to a single species. Acoustic monitoring has helped us learn more about the behaviour and ecology of animals such as whales, dolphins, birds, amphibians, insects and bats.

With biodiversity in decline globally, acoustic monitoring is a highly-effective, efficient and low-cost way to gather the data required to prevent further losses. In the future, we may have huge networks of acoustic sensors monitoring the natural world, feeding us live information. We humans are highly visual animals, but we should remember to take the time to close our eyes and open our ears to the orchestra of the natural world around us.

Neil Palmer/CIAT


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