Scientists are Using Machine Listening to Protect Ecosystems

Scientists are Using Machine Listening to Protect Ecosystems

New research shows that scientists can get a better understanding of how healthy ecosystems are by simply listening to them. 

Every ecosystem on the planet has a distinct sound. These sounds change depending on the time of day, month, and year. 

According to Bryan Pijanowski, soundscape ecologist and director of Purdue University’s Center for Global Soundscapes, “Sounds are part of the ecosystem, and they are signatures of that ecosystem.”

The unique sound environment of an ecosystem is known as a soundscape; a collection of all the sounds — biological, geophysical, and anthropogenic — that make up a place.

The new research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, applies machine learning algorithms to soundscape ecology, allowing machines to judge habitat health by simply listening to the soundscapes.


The machines listen and send data back to scientists in real-time. This drastically speeds up the process of ecological surveys, which are extremely labor-intensive and slow. 

This tactic will also help land managers detect illegal activities — like illegal logging and poaching. A change in the normal pattern of an ecosystem’s soundscape is a very good indication of harmful activities. 

Also, chainsaw and gunshot sounds don’t occur naturally in the wild 😉.

Ultimately, this method will provide new tools to land managers and scientists monitoring ecosystem health, allowing for healthier ecosystems worldwide.