After so many years of writing about science, it can still happen that I bump into an entire field of studies that I somehow managed to miss, although it is really interesting and has been going on for many years. My most recent discovery of this type is soundscape ecology, which uses sound recordings to study the composition and health of ecosystems and can detect changes that happen over time, eg with the seasons, after natural diasters, or due to climate change.
As this was all new to me, I did a general feature explaining what it's all about and how it can help us better understand the natural environment. Although pioneers have been recording things for decades now, recent technology has of course made it easier to record, store and process massive amounts of audio data, providing an acoustic component to the general big data revolution in the life sciences.
Anyhow, my feature is out now:
Listening to the sounds of the biosphere
Current Biology Volume 28, Issue 16, 20 August 2018, Pages R847–R850
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Soundscape ecologists record ambient sound and analyse it for changes that may be linked to environmental change. (Photo: Bryan C. Pijanowski, Center for Global Soundscapes.)