Thinking Out Loud: Using Sound to Measure Habitat

Jan 28, 2016

Increasingly, sound is providing scientists with clues about changes in habitat. On this episode of Thinking Out Loud, KBIA's Darren Hellwege talks with Christopher Bobryk, a Columbia-based soil scientist with the USDA who uses sound to measure habitat. He visited with Darren about the growing field of soundscape ecology.


Think back to memories of childhood. Or even to last year. How do you recall a past time and place? Sure, you may have pictures of an important place. You may have the hint of a smell, perhaps a whiff of a friend's perfume on a scarf. But, how do you recall the sound of a time and place?

On a recent episode of KBIA's Thinking Out Loud, the USDA's Christopher Bobryk said that during the not-so-distant past, few scientists capturing sound to measure a given species habitat.

If we think back to Rachel Carson back in the 1960s, she had this great observation of how bird choruses wouldn't be there year after year. They were slowly dwindling. And so later on we found out the effects of pesticides on birds.We know now that sounds are inherently affected by such processes. You can also look at how sounds change over a scale. Landscape ecology and soundscape ecology are closely connected.

Collecting sounds from specific locations helps scientists like Bobryk know what species are present at a certain point in time. Increasingly scientists are using sounds to measure habitat location and extent.

This episode of Thinking Out Loud originally aired on Tuesday, January 26, 2016. New episodes air each Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. on KBIA 91.3FM.