Airdate: Apr 26, 2012
Scientist: Stuart Gage
Science Diary: Acoustical Ecology - Biodiversity
Want to measure biodiversity? No fancy instruments needed. Just use your ears!
Science Diary Acoustics Biodiversity
Music; Ambiance: Lake Habitat
“If you listen in the background there, you’ll hear the sound of Canada geese fighting out their territorial imperative and setting up nesting areas and so on.”
At a lake in rural Michigan the calls of Canada Geese are just part of the local soundscape. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. Stuart Gage is an acoustical ecologist at Michigan State University. Using recordings like the one we’re listening to, he analyzes the sound of a place to learn more about the species found there.
“As you listen to the recording here, you can hear all kinds of different chatter between different sorts of organisms. Lots of different birds, probably just in that little set of recordings. Oh, there goes the loon. So, just in this few minutes that we’ve been listening to we’ve just heard about 15 species of organisms. We talk about biodiversity, and that means the numbers of all the species that occur at a particular place, and it’s very, very difficult to get a measure of that at very many places. Sound is one of the indices that we can use to help us measure the biological diversity of the organisms. So, you can actually build the entire framework of an ecosystem through the acoustical presence of particular organisms. That’s why I think sound is this really amazing variable.”
ambience: Canada Geese
The sounds of an ecosystem give us clues about the quieter residents, as well. For example, when you hear a bird call, you can know that the plants or insects the bird dines on are likely found there, too.
Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.