Science Diary: Acoustics – Spring Peepers
Music; Ambiance: Spring peepers, motorcycle
JM: We’re on a country road near a wetlands area, listening to the small frogs known as spring peepers. A motorcycle zooms by, and you wonder, does that noise impact the creatures who live in the wetlands? Well, that’s the type of question that Stuart Gage, an acoustic ecologist, is trying to answer. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside.
SG: “Different kinds of disturbance cause animals to change their behavior. This is a rural roadside, and cars going by don’t seem to affect the sounds of these small frogs, but this particular disturbance actually has a profound effect on the signaling. But, as you can see, after the disturbance has gone by, the frogs begin to continue their signaling. But we were particularly interested in the interaction between human mechanical sounds and the animal sounds that you hear in a wetland.”
JM: Disruptive noises can take a toll on the feeding and reproductive activities of wetlands creatures, as they try to decide whether the sound is coming from something dangerous.
SG: “Well, all animals are concerned about their well being and, in particular, worried about predators because those are organisms that eat them. And so, they’re very sensitive, just like we were back in the days when we lived in the wetlands and the woods and very sensitive to our aural environment, and as we’ve kind of developed our own houses and enclosures, we’ve become less aware and less needy to know about the sounds of the environment.”
JM: By learning more about how human created sounds interact with the natural environment, Stuart Gage hopes that we can find ways to lessen the impacts of these noises.
SG: Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.