Why conservation scientists are listening to nature


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.

Bats, the subject of my own research, are ideal candidates for acoustic monitoring. Famously, they use echolocation to navigate through the skies, but they also produce feeding buzzes to hunt down prey, and social calls to attract mates.