Agriculture News

August 17, 2017

Purdue scientists want help recording wildlife during eclipse

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University researchers are collaborating with science museums, zoos, and state and national park scientists across the country, as well as citizen scientists, to understand how Monday’s total solar eclipse will affect animal vocalizations and habits.

Bryan Pijanowski, professor and director of Purdue’s Discovery Park Center for Global Soundscapes, is a pioneer in the field of soundscape ecology, which focuses on how sounds affect wildlife and what can be learned about wildlife through changes in the patterns of their vocalizations. The eclipse offers a rare opportunity to understand how an unexpected period of darkness may alter animals’ circadian rhythms. The noises they make, or don’t make, can give clues about the role light plays in animal activities.

“This is really an opportunity to study a rare event, and it allows us to study triggers to animal behaviors,” Pijanowski said. “Are some of the crickets that sing at night going to start singing during the middle of the day? Is the cardinal that is normally singing during the day going to stop singing?”

Taylor Broadhead, a graduate student in Pijanowski’s lab, is spearheading the eclipse research. Between submissions from museums and citizen scientists, she hopes to collect hundreds or thousands of audio files from the band where the eclipse is complete, out to areas where the sun is only 60 percent eclipsed.

“Light availability influences the daily behavioral patterns of animals,” Broadhead said. “We anticipate a general confusion among animals. We just don’t really know because it is not well documented on this large of a scale.”

Purdue’s Soundscape Ecology team partners with Wildlife Acoustics, maker of wildlife recording equipment, to document the sounds of nature.

“I am excited to support Bryan's team and other researchers to witness the effects of this once-in-a-life-time event on the biological soundscape,” said Wildlife Acoustics’ president and CEO Ian Agranat. “We look forward to learning how the eclipse affects animal behavior in birds, frogs and bats.”

Nearly 100 of the company’s recording devices are deployed in 18 key research sites throughout North America.

But anyone interested in being a citizen scientist for the project can download an app developed by Purdue’s Soundscape Ecology research group. The Record the Earth app can be downloaded from recordtheearth.org, through the Google Play store or iTunes.

The researchers ask that users record at the height of the eclipse, as well as before and after. There is also a section to log notes about the place where the recording was made, what was heard and other relevant information. Researchers in the Center for Global Soundscapes will be monitoring submissions in real time.

“That’s where these citizen scientists can help us the most — in these areas we might not be covering or where we don’t have resources,” Broadhead said.

For more information on the research, go to www.soundsoftheeclipse.org 

Contact: Brian Wallheimer, 765-532-0233, bwallhei@purdue.edu

Sources: Bryan Pijanowski, 765-496-2215, bpijanow@purdue.edu

Taylor Broadhead, 785-231-9389, tbroadhe@purdue.edu

Agricultural Communications: (765) 494-8415;
Shari Finnell, Manager/Media Relations and Public Information, sfinnell@purdue.edu  
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