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Soundscape Ecology – Master Lab

Are you enthusiastic about science? MasterLabs brings current research projects closer to students and supports you in designing your own research projects for your Master's thesis in the newly emerging field of Soundscape Ecology.

For further informations and applications contact
Sandra Müller: sandra.mueller@biologie.uni-freiburg.de

 

The MasterLab is not expected to continue in 2023/2024. If you are interested in learning ecoacoustic methods, we still offer internships in our department, please contact Sandra Müller (above) if you are interested and have further questions.

 

 

Soundscape ecology is an interdisciplinary field that connects biology, landscape ecology (including urban ecology, landscape planning and landscape management), conservation research, ecoacoustics, bioacoustics, medicine, computer science, urban ecology, social science and art. This Master Lab is designed around the intersection of these disciplines, whereby soundscape ecology is the framework within which students will learn to work on different ecological, technical and socio-economic questions.

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Figure 1: Conceptual framework of soundscape ecology. The acoustic space available to animals is determined by anthropophony and geophony, as well as the communication of other species. The species composition of vocalizing animal species is influenced by the abiotic environment, land use, and vegetation.

 

This Master Lab is also built within the ConFoBi (Conservation of Forest Biodiversity in Multiple-Use Land-scapes of Central Europe) Research Training Group, which offers a pre-existing research infra-structure of study plots throughout the southern Black Forest and experts in forest management research across disciplines of ecology, biology, silviculture, remote sensing, sociology and economics.
 

The following disciplines will be integrated into the Master Lab: (i) Ecoacoustics, (ii) Vegetation Ecology, (iii) Wildlife Ecology and Management, (iv) Nature Conservation and Landscape Ecology, (iv), Forest Entomology and Protection, (v) Computer Networks and Telematics, (vi) Forestry Economics and Forest Planning and (vii) Environmental Social Sciences and Geography.
 

This truly interdisciplinary Master Lab is open for students from the participating faculties Biology (BIO), Environment & Natural Resources (UNR), and Engineering (TECH), interested students from other faculties are also welcome.

 

If you are interested in Soundscape Ecology and joining the MasterLab in any of the topics and projects listed below, please contact Sandra Müller: sandra.mueller@biologie.uni-freiburg.de

To ensure a successfull integration of the MasterLab within your courses it is possible to make the MasterLab a "Wahlmodul B" (for students from the biology faculty (BIO)), a "selected topic" (for students from the faculty of Environment & Natural Resources (UNR)), or a "project modul" (for students from the faculty Engineering (TECH)).

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you are unsure how best to schedule MasterLab with your other courses.

 

More information on the MasterLab programm by the University of Freiburg can be found here.

 

 

Figure 2: Setting up an autonomouse audio recorder in the black forest © M. Scherer-Lorenzen.

RESEARCH TOPICS AND PROJECTS


1.    Acoustic monitoring for biodiversity and ecosystem functioning research


In addition to learning state-of-the-art knowledge and theory on ecoacoustics, students will do their own field recordings with autonomous recording devices and characterize local soundscapes. They will learn how to use software tools (Kaleidescope Pro and R Statistical Computing Environment) required to listen to recordings, clean large datasets and calculate acoustic indices. Student projects will connect to current research projects and networks such as Dr. Forest, TreeDivNet and other ConFoBi projects.

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Figure 3: Dawn chorus in a spring forest. Click on the picture to play the sound.
 

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Michael Scherer-Lorenzen, Dr. Sandra Müller (Chair of Geobotany, BIO).


2.    Using acoustics for taxonomic identification to estimate diversity and abundance of bats and birds


Students will conduct their own fieldwork to capture bird calls (during dawn) and bat calls (from within bat boxes). They will work with expert ornithologists and chiropterologists within ConFoBi to process the audio files, visualize spectrograms, use automatic classification software (Kaleidescope Pro and R Statistical Computing Environment), and to learn how to visually identify taxa based on the characteristic shapes of the calls.

Figure 4: Acoustic recordings of A) a coal tit song  B) echolocation calls of the common pipistrelle bat from ConFoBi plot CFB140. Images from © Joao Pereira and Francois Biollaz.


Supervisors: Taylor Shaw (Chair of Geobotany, BIO); Anna-Lena Hendel, João Pereira, Prof. Dr. Ilse Storch, (Chair of Wildlife Ecology), Dr. Vero Braunisch (FVA)


3.    Bio- and Ecoacoustics for Insect Monitoring


Students will collect acoustic data in summer and ask questions related to monitoring insect populations acoustically: Do acoustic indices correlate with diversity and abundance of pollinators? Are acoustic methods a useful tool to study insect decline? Can we identify insect species acoustically? Can we differentiate among functional groups using current ecoacoustic analysis tools?

Figure 5: Orthoptera stridulations in a summer meadow. Click on the picture to play the sound.

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Alexandra Klein (Chair of Nature Conservation and Landscape Ecology, UNR), Dr. Sandra Müller, Taylor Shaw (Chair of Geobotany, BIO)

 


4.    Acoustic monitoring to detect tree-infesting insects and estimate population sizes


Tree-infesting insects, like bark beetles, longhorn beetles or certain moths are important players in forest ecosystems and strongly affect tree health and productivity. Can we use acoustic monitoring to detect insect infestations, before an outbreak affects large patches of ecologically and financially valuable forests? Highly sensitive microphones will be installed on manipulated trees with certain herbivorous insects to record insect feeding activities. Is it possible to identify particular insect species by their feeding activity?  Is it possible to estimate population sizes and if so is it applicable in the field?

Figure 6: Spectrogram of the sound of needles falling from a spruce tree in July as a result of severe drought and bark beetle infestation. Click on the picture to play the sound.
 

Supervisors: Dr. Tim Burzlaff, Prof. Dr. Peter Biedermann, Raluca Hedes (Chair of Forest Entomology and Protection, UNR), Prof. Dr. Alexandra Klein (Chair of Nature Conservation and Landscape Ecology, UNR), Taylor Shaw (Geobotany, BIO)


5.    Computer science to improve current acoustic monitoring methods


Students will be involved in testing newly developed methods on spatial sound detection in the field. We would set up an array of autonomous recorders (based on distributed Raspberry Pi nodes with audio re-corder shield) to spatially locate the source of individual sounds (i.e. vocalizing animals). This is an important tool to more accurate estimate abundance using acoustic methods. This method is often used for monitoring specific taxa within a large habitat, e.g. primates, or elephants, but has thus far proven more difficult for avifauna and has never been used for insects, which could be tested within this project together with students from Topic 3.
 

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Christian Schindelhauer, Dr. Johannes Wendeberg (Chair of Computer Net-works and Telematics, TECH)


6. Place-making through forest sound as an ecosystem service

Students will gain an understanding of how sounds affect the perception, creation, and sense-making of forests. Supported by virtual reality equipment (VR headset with eye-tracking function), they will conduct an experimental research asking participants to rate the level at which they value different sounds in the local soundscape and examine how these sounds contribute to the place-making of forests. Subsequently, the students will have the opportunity to compare the ratings to ecoacoustic indices, to quantify the “acoustic value” of the landscape and to test the potential of ecoacoustic indices as a cultural ecosystem service metric.

 

Supervisors: Philipp Mack, Prof. Dr. Daniela Kleinschmit (Chair of Forest and Environmental Policy UNR), Nicole Still (Forestry Economics and Forest Planning UNR), Taylor Shaw (Geobotany, BIO)


ENVISAGED SCHEDULE

April 2022 (01.-11.04.2022)

 

  • Kickoff-meeting: Welcome of Master Lab students. Introduction to the Research Topics and Courses.
  • Lecture: Basics of Soundscape Ecology and the functional role of sound in a landscape
  • Self-study phase: independent literature search, development of research questions and methods, meeting with co-students and mentors.
  • Seminar (Session 1): presentation of planned Research Projects.
  • Campfire Session: first Session to get to know each other.


May – August 2022

 

  • Workshop (20.-24.06.): Soundscape Ecology, Eco- and Bioacoustic Methods.
  • Field and lab work: exact timing will depend on research question and phenology of target study species
  • Seminar (Session 2): Results from first pilot studies and literature review
  • GRK Jour Fixe and Campfire Sessions: ongoing

 

 Field work, analysis and seminars can extent into the winter semster.

 
For further informations and applications contact
Sandra Müller: sandra.mueller@biologie.uni-freiburg.de

 

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