Soundscape ecology, as it’s being called, will focus on what sounds can tell people about an area. Bryan Pijanowski, an associate professor of forestry and natural resources and lead author of a paper outlining the field in the journal BioScience, said natural sound could be used like a canary in a coal mine. Sound could be a critical first indicator of environmental changes. Pijanowski said sound could be used to detect early changes in climate, weather patterns, the presence of pollution or other alterations to a landscape.
This is consistent with the established practice of acoustic ecology rather than being a new scientific field in its own right, as claimed elsewhere in the article. Perhaps the university’s press office decided to sprinkle a little stardust on the story. The scale of the study is nonetheless impressive:
Pijanowski has already begun some of the soundscape ecology work in various natural and human-dominated landscapes around Tippecanoe County in Indiana. More than 35,000 recordings were used to characterize the rhythms of the natural sound and how varying degrees of human development affected those rhythms.
And when, on the still cold nights, he pointed his nose at a star and howled long and wolflike, it was his ancestors, dead and dust, pointing nose at star and howling down through the centuries and through him. And his cadences were their cadences, the cadences which voiced their woe and what to them was the meaning of the stillness, and the cold, and the dark. – Jack London, Call of the Wild