Thanks to a guest professor and his assistant my group and I got the opportunity to learn about soundscapes. The study of soundscape ecology, in essence, is the study of the different sounds we experience in different ecological areas. Specifically there are three types of sound that characterize a soundscape, biophony, geophony, and anthrophony. Biophony can be described as the sounds of plants and animals, frogs croaking and birds chirping, geophony can be described as the sounds of the earth, wind blowing or waves crashing, and finally anthrophony can be described as the sound of any noise created by humans, talking, car horns, or even music. Studying the soundscape ecology of an area can lead to a better understanding of its ecological health and also the general comfort experienced by anyone in that area. For instance, if traffic or construction sounds become too loud in a given area they can overpower mating sounds of birds and insects leading to a possible decrease in their population.
In order to study soundscapes we were given four sensitive sound recorders and split up to record the sound of different areas within Westpark in Bochum, Germany. We walked to a specific part of the park that was predetermined, made a sound recording for three minutes, careful to not make any extra noise, while also recording the species diversity we found there. Once we recorded all of our data and pieced them together we found that the south-west part of the park was noisier with more anthrophonic sounds while the north-east and central parts of the park were relatively quiet with a healthy mixture of biophonic and geophonic sounds. This is most likely due to the fact that the south-west is more developed and closer to the city while the central and north-east is more heavily forested. After the data was collected and conclusions reached we were tasked with further developing the park in order to create healthier and possibly quieter soundscapes. This includes building sound walls that help reduce noise as well as planting more trees for the same effect. All in all I am grateful to have been a part of a relatively new branch of study when it comes to ecological study.