Brian Pijanowski, Professor at Purdue University in Landscape Ecology, is pioneering the emerging field of Soundscape Ecology, and he's using Wildlife Acoustics SM2 Song Meters to do so. According to Pijanowski, sounds can oftentimes be the first indicators in a host of changes facing a habitat.
Like an acoustic fingerprint, each environment has its very own sonic signature, and that signature is bound to change with changes in its diversity. Using these aural snapshots, scientists are able to see what's happening in a landscape over time. At first glance, it might seem obvious to track the sounds in an environment as a gauge of biodiversity and ecological impact.
“Over increasingly large areas of the United States, Spring now comes unheralded by the return of the birds, and the early mornings are strangely silent where once they were filled with the beauty of bird song.”
— Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
“If we disconnect with the sounds of nature, will we continue to respect and sustain nature?”
— Brian Pijanowski
Yet, over 50 years after Rachel Carson warned of a “silent spring” in the not too distant future, there are just a handful of scientists focusing on soundscapes as an indicator of ecological change. Pijanowski emphasizes that it is not only important to listen to one type of sound (such as an isolated bird call) but to listen to the environment as a whole. He defines soundscape ecology as a combination of biophony, geophony, and anthrophony (biological, geophysical or non-biological ambient sounds, and human-produced) sounds.
Unlike the time when Silent Spring was published, we now have the technology to capture and store vast amounts of sound information. Pijanowksi’s team has taken full advantage of that and has been using Wildlife Acoustics Song Meters from the very beginning, starting with unit #28 off of our assembly line (which is still recording).