Skip to content

How Do We Listen In?

Updated Friday 16th July 2004

How do we monitor the communication we cannot hear? Learn more about infrasound monitoring

A frog - volunteers are trained to listen for specific species' calls Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission Infrasound monitoring has become an important tool for scientists assessing populations of endangered forest elephants in Africa. Specialist equipment (sensitive to sounds at low frequencies) is required to record the calls and store them as digital information. They can then be analysed both audibly, by speeding up the call (raising its frequency), and visually (as a graphical representation of the sound waves). Elephant conversations in dense forest can be automatically recorded in this way over periods of several months.

The development of these infrasound recording techniques has allowed the study of elephants which are otherwise difficult to even find! Scientists also use acoustic monitoring to assess populations of other endangered animals such as grasshoppers, bats, badgers and amphibians, as well as introduced insect pests.

In North America in particular (although the method is applicable to other parts of the world), conservationists use volunteers trained to recognise the calls of different frogs and toads to monitor the presence of breeding males at ponds. Repeat calling surveys over a period of years can then be used to assess changes in species abundance and distribution.

This research could be especially important as amphibians are known to be particularly sensitive to environmental changes – changes which, in time, can have detrimental effects to human health and quality of life. An understanding of the acoustic environment might therefore be just as important to Brian from Personnel as it is to a hunting bat.

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

Science, Maths & Technology 

9/11: Attack on the Wires

What happens when one of the worst terrorist attacks in history strikes the densest cluster of networks on the planet? How did the largest communications provider in the United States handle the surge in demand? Despite surviving earthquakes, hurricanes and other man-made and natural disasters, the staff at AT and T struggled to cope with the flood of calls that followed the tragic events of September 11th. Over the course of the day they handled in excess of 400 million calls as people in America, and all over the world tried to contact friends and family in New York. This collection gives a snapshot of how the communications company dealt with the unprecedented technological challenges by using techniques such as call gapping to help free up other services.

Video
10 mins
The Greenland white-fronted goose Creative commons image Icon Greenland White Fronted Goose / Hilary Chambers / CC BY-ND 2.0 under Creative-Commons license audio icon

Nature & Environment 

The Greenland white-fronted goose

Waterfowl expert Tony Fox talks to Saving Species about a goose that has been on conservation concern for many years.

Audio
15 mins
Tracking a group of bonobos Creative commons image Icon Work found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonobo / CC BY-SA 3.0 under Creative-Commons license audio icon

Nature & Environment 

Tracking a group of bonobos

Theo Webb and Gottfried Hohmann track a group of bonobos in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Audio
15 mins
The Cycling Cicada Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team article icon

Nature & Environment 

The Cycling Cicada

The life cycle of the cicada can take up to 17 years, as Robert Saunders explains

Article
People Like Me: Lucy Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Lucy Mitchell article icon

Nature & Environment 

People Like Me: Lucy

Who studies science? We talk to students and graduates - and meet Lucy

Article
article icon

Nature & Environment 

Wanted! Starlings

The European starling, a native bird to Britain - but what of its impact on other continents where it has been introduced?

Article
article icon

Nature & Environment 

Mosquito love songs: How do they find their mates?

How do mosquitoes use their wings to attract a mate?

Article
Explore your digestive system Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Open2 team - screenshot from interactive activity icon

Nature & Environment 

Explore your digestive system

An interactive exploration of how the digestive system works

Activity
The Speed of Extinct Organisms Creative commons image Icon Kabacchi under CC-BY licence under Creative-Commons license article icon

Nature & Environment 

The Speed of Extinct Organisms

Palaeobiology - how the speed of movement of extinct animals can be calculated

Article