Soundscapes

Overview

Sounds are a perpetual and dynamic property of all landscapes, and as such, can be an important metric to examine the health and integrity of an ecosystem. With over half of the terrestrial surface of the Earth transformed by human actions, many of nature’s voices have been significantly affected. For instance, birds in urban environments have to sing at a higher pitch and volume than those in natural settings. In remote areas such as coastal Alaska, whale communication is being disrupted by the drilling rigs and underwater air-guns used to explore for fossil fuel reserves. A more subtle example highlights how changing soundscapes can serve as indicators of global change: the formerly rare sound of thunder in Fairbanks, Alaska is now a common occurrence due to the impact of climate change on weather patterns.

Soundscapes infographic

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Purdue’s Approach

Starting with a Center for the Environment seed grant in 2006, Purdue has created a team of ecologists, engineers, social scientists, educators, and musicians has helped launch a new interdisciplinary science known as soundscape ecology; a field of study motivated by concerns of preserving our natural soundscapes and studying the impacts that humans have on ecosystems via disruption of natural sounds. This goal is to connect a network of scientists interested in a variety of projects that use natural sound as an indicator of environmental changes, such as shifts in climate, weather patterns, the presence of pollution, or other alterations to a landscape. In 2014, these efforts led to the creation of the Center for Global Soundscapes.

Projects

Global Soundscapes! Big Data, Big Screens, Open Ears Project

PI: Bryan Pijanowski
Funding: National Science Foundation

This project uses the new science of soundscape ecology to design a variety of informal science learning experiences that engage participants through acoustic discovery. Soundscape ecology is an interdisciplinary science that studies how humans relate to place through sound and how humans influence the environment through the alteration of natural sound composition. The project includes: an interface to the National Science Foundation-funded Global Sustainable Soundscapes Network with 12 universities around the world; sound-based learning experiences targeting middle-school students (grades 5-8), visually impaired and urban students, and the general public; and professional development for informal science educators. 


Record the Earth

PI: Bryan Pijanoski
Funding: Purdue

The aim of this project is to develop a global map of soundscapes and learn more about how people “connect” to their soundscapes. Through a Record the Earth app (for iOS and Android) and an interactive map storing the soundscape archive, the team seeks the help of citizen scientists to record and upload their soundscape recording to this global archive. In addition, the effort hosts a variety of one-day events, such as those held on Earth Day each year (April 22), where people around the world upload their soundscapes in order to build an archive of “what the Earth sounds like on one day”. The project’s website (https://www.recordtheearth.org/) allows users to see a map of soundscapes that “make people happy,” among other things. 

A Global Sustainable Soundscape Network

PI: Bryan Pijanowski
Funding: National Science Foundation

In recent years, ecologists, cognitive psychologists, and scholars in the humanities have begun to study soundscapes from their own natural, social, and creative disciplinary perspective. Work in the U.S., Canada, and Europe is moving forward in these three camps with little to no coordination. Even within the ecological community, no formal group has been formed that allows research to be integrated and compared. To facilitate interaction among these communities of scholars and to invite scholars from other fields to examine sounds as measures of and perspectives into human and natural system interactions, this project has created the Global Sustainable Soundscape Network as a National Science Foundation Research Coordination Network (RCN). 

Affiliated Faculty

Bryan Pijanowski

Forestry and Natural Resources

Pijanowski specializes in spatial modeling and analysis of land use/cover change. Grounded in the theoretical framework of complex socio-ecological systems, his research employs advanced technologies and methodologies from a wide array of disciplines. Pijanowski is interested in how results of simulations of the future can be used to achieve a more sustainable society. Much of the research being conducted in his research group uses geographic information systems, remote sensing, machine learning (e.g., neural networks), role-playing simulation, agent-based modeling, expert judgment and semi-structured interview tools and approaches.

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Daniel Shepardson

Curriculum and Instruction and Earth

Shepardson’s research investigates students' conceptions of and ways of reasoning about geo-environmental phenomena; the role social interaction plays in students' meaning making and reasoning. This research looks at students' conceptual frameworks and how they are challenged and restructured by encounters with phenomena and data derived from science investigations. It incorporates students' self-produced science journals as a meaning making tool. Currently his research program is investigating students’ understandings of a climate system and its implications to global warming and climate change.

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