Naturalist Perspectives Challenge: Soundscape Ecology

We should think about soundscapes as medicine… Do it twenty minutes a day as a lifetime approach, or you can do it as an acute stress intervention.—Dr. Joshua Smythe

With the weather warming up, the landscapes you’ve been visiting may be livening up. This challenge (due May 1st) asks you to take a closer listen to natural and human-made sounds. Follow these instructions to take a soundscape ecology perspective on one of the places you’ve recently visited. 

  1. Listen to the Weekend Edition story “Scientists Tune In To The ‘Voices Of The Landscape'” to get an brief introduction to soundscape ecology.
  2. Visit your Site Alpha or Beta and listen carefully for no less than 15 minutes, noting down what you hear.
  3. Make a simple chart or list of high-frequency and low-frequency sounds with descriptions of each sound. What might these sounds tell you about the landscape? Are certain frequency ranges occupied by certain types of species? What might these sounds tell you about the biodiversity and ecology of the place you visited?
  4. Extra Credit: Take it to the next level by making a field recording (with your smartphone, laptop or other equipment) and analyzing it with software to more accurately determine the frequency ranges of the sounds in the landscape you visited.
  5. Extra Credit: Return to the same location at another time of day and repeat steps 2 and 3 (also 4 if you’d like to go high-tech). Then respond to these questions: What sounds are still present? Has anything about them changed (location, intensity, etc.)? What sounds did you hear this time that you didn’t hear before?
  6. Summarize your work on this challenge in a blog post.
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