Soundbites is a weekly (biweekly, occasionally) feature of the coolest, newest bioacoustics, soundscape, and acoustic research, in bite-size form. Plus other cool stuff having to do with sound. Lots of birds this week, it turns out!

Humans and hermit thrushes show convergent “song cultures”this is a cool one, and a little complicated. Apparently people have long debated the human preference for simple integer harmonics in our music–these are what generate our scales, both Western and non-Western. It turns out that hermit thrushes also prefer simple integer harmonics, and it’s actively selected for. While this isn’t prevalent among all birdsong, it’s interesting to see that there’s a sort of convergent evolution of this “song culture”!

Birds are impacted by road noise on their autumnal migration routesa lot of work has been done on birds in springtime (since that’s when mating tends to happen), but these researchers found that birds also prefer quieter areas on their autumnal migration route too. Unless they’re insectivores, in which case they didn’t care.

Fun link of the week is courtesy of Holger again, who is finding the best stuff on the interwebs. Did you know that the European Space Agency just landed a spacecraft on a comet?!? SO COOL! Here’s another thing I didn’t know: comets sing!! Follow the link and you can hear a comet singing!

Soundbites is a weekly (biweekly, occasionally) feature of the coolest, newest bioacoustics, soundscape, and acoustic research, in bite-size form. Plus other cool stuff having to do with sound. Welcome to November, everyone! Fall is definitely here! I promise I’ll have a proper ASA post up soon, but in the meantime here are your Soundbites for the week!

Cruise ships may be having an impact in developing tourist marketsthe good thing about ecotourism is that you’re not openly depleting resources the way you used to be. The bad thing about ecotourism is that increased exposure can degrade the environment. Places like the Eastern Mediterranean and the Adriatic are facing increased noise levels because of increasing tourism.

Microclimate affects frog callsabiotic noise like streams and waterfalls can have as much of an impact on vocalizing animals as anthropogenic noise. Here the researchers wanted to know if frogs in different microclimates (near stream, far from stream) were changing their call frequency to overcome stream noise, and they were!

Fun link of the week this week comes from Holger and Radiolab–the story of a vest that helps deaf people hear.


Soundbites is a weekly (biweekly, occasionally) feature of the coolest, newest bioacoustics, soundscape, and acoustic research, in bite-size form. Plus other cool stuff having to do with sound. I’ve been doing really well on this weekly thing, but I might break my streak next week as I’ll be in Indianapolis for ASA(!). That just means you’ll get a real blog post from me next week!

Aposematism led to increased vocal diversity in poison frogstip o’ the finder hat to my Garcia labmate Lindsey for this one, and it’s brilliant. You know those little brightly colored poisonous frogs? These authors wanted to know if aposematism (displaying bright colors like that as a warning to predators) might lead to increased vocal diversity, since they’d have to worry less about predation. And it did! In conjunction with sexual selection, aposematism allowed the evolution of a broader vocal repertoire!

Silvereyes shift their frequency down in urban noise–and it worksThese are silvereyes. Silvereye birdsThey’re really cute. You can find them in Australia and New Zealand (which is where I took this photo). Most animals shift their frequencies up above urban noise, but it turns out silvereyes shift theirs down. This increased the predicted effective space of their alarm call 20%!

Fun link of the week: Robert Krulwich of Radiolab wonders about singing bats!


Soundbites is a weekly (biweekly, occasionally) feature of the coolest, newest bioacoustics, soundscape, and acoustic research, in bite-size form. Plus other cool stuff having to do with sound. 

High-frequency vessel noise may have an effect on marine mammals in shallow watermuch of the anthropogenic noise that we’re concerned with at ORCAA, whether it’s road or vessel noise, is low-frequency because of the attenuation of higher frequencies. However, in shallow water, the high frequencies may not attenuate as much and may therefore cause masking for higher-pitched odontocetes.

Direct-developing frogs are more reliant on climate cues to start callingwhat a week, we get one whale link and one frog link! There are some species of entirely terrestrial frogs that don’t go through a tadpole stage; instead, they hatch as mini adults. However, the eggs still need to be kept moist while they’re developing. These researchers found that the onset of calling was more closely tied to high humidity and rainfall than it was to overall air temperature, which is a different cue than most species of tadpole-metamorphosing frogs.

Fun link of the weekI’ve been practicing for my presentation at ASA in a couple of weeks, so I’ve been asking myself this question regularly: “does my voice really sound like that?” Here Greg Foot examines why our voices sound different on recordings.

Soundbites is a weekly (biweekly, occasionally) feature of the coolest, newest bioacoustics, soundscape, and acoustic research, in bite-size form. Plus other cool stuff having to do with sound. 

Proximity to wind turbines reduces brood parasitismthis is fascinating. These researchers looked at nest success in relation to proximity to wind turbines, and only found a difference for one species, the blue gnat-catcher. It turns out that nests closer to wind turbines had less of a chance of being parasitized by brown cowbirds. This presents an interesting dichotomy between managing for wind turbines and managing brood parasitism.

Invertebrates may also be impacted by anthropogenic noisewe at ORCAA work entirely on vertebrates, but these authors make an excellent point that invertebrate species have the ability to hear anthropogenic noise. As they are a huge part of food webs in all ecosystems, neglecting to study their response to noise is neglecting a huge part of the systems we study.

Fun link of the weekthe loudest sound in recorded human history was heard 3000 miles away. 3000 miles. That is one loud volcano.

Last week I attended the 5th Biologging Science Symposium in Strasbourg, France (Yes, France!! All thanks to student travel awards from the OSU Mastin Travel Award, the Hatfield Student Organization, and the conference itself).

Pretend this is me in front of my poster at the conference instead of a giant wine  barrel.
Of course being in France, all posters were hung on huge barrels of wine! (Sadly, not actually…)

OSU had quite the showing. Almost all the PI’s from the Marine Mammal Institute were there, plus Dr. Rob Suryan from Hatfield’s Seabird Oceanography Lab, and Shea Steingass and I as student presenters. I presented a poster on my master’s research, and the poster sessions (all 4 of them!) were super productive. I was able to meet people from the Marine Mammal Commission who were interested in my work and suggested some research grants I could apply for to conduct future field work. I got feedback from my collaborator David (the raccoons in chimney guy) on my analysis and got to hang out at his exhibitor booth like a cool kid. And I got to talk with leading dive physiology researchers from Scripps Institute of Oceanograpy about how to use my tag to study specific physiological responses to extended deep dives. I think my favorite part was meeting Dr. Gerald “Jerry” Kooyman, the inventor of time-depth recorders, and hearing him say he thought my research was awesome.

Biologging is all about putting tags on animals and studying their behavior, whether it’s large-scale migrations, fine scale flight, foraging kinematics, or vocal production and communication. There were countless interesting research presentations and I was able to make some great new connections, but all week something felt like it was missing. Acoustics!! This was my first major conference that was not all acoustics, all the time, and I have to say there were moments sitting in a talk I found myself wishing for more dB’s. Don’t get me wrong, I am so thankful I was able to attend and I learned a ton. But to satisfy the acoustician in me, I recorded all over Strasbourg and now I’ll share with you the sounds of France! Or, at least a small subset recorded by your’s truly.

Free beer to anyone who makes the sounds into spectrograms and leaves them in the comments!

Siren and street sounds from outside my apartment window:


Inside the conference center during an oral presentation:


The tram that got us all over town:


Some performers at the open-air market:


The hum of a coffee break at the conference:


The bell’s of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg:






Soundbites is a weekly (biweekly, occasionally) feature of the coolest, newest bioacoustics, soundscape, and acoustic research, in bite-size form. Plus other cool stuff having to do with sound. It’s officially the last Soundbites before the fall term at OSU begins! 

Light and noise pollution from urban developments may affect ecosystemsthe authors did a literature review on studies done on the impacts of light and noise pollution across Australia, and found some glaring and disconcerting gaps in the research. They highlight several effects from light and noise pollution, including stress, changes in foraging, increased predation risk, and reduced reproductive success. They propose that more careful city planning could mitigate the impacts.

Cuttlefish change visual signals in presence of high noise levelsI’m a sucker for cephalopods, and this study is great. Cuttlefish aren’t acoustic animals; in fact, they use complex visual signals to communicate. However, in the presence of anthropogenic noise playback, they changed their color more often than in the absence of noise. This suggests that anthropogenic noise can affect behavior across modalities, and can have an impact on non-acoustic species. Very cool.

Fun link of the weekit’s the first day of school for OSU students on Monday! And granted, as graduate students, that doesn’t really mean much for most of us in ORCAA, since the work doesn’t stop with the end of term. But trust NPR to deliver when I type “sounds of back to school” into Google.

Soundbites is a weekly (biweekly, occasionally) feature of the coolest, newest bioacoustics, soundscape, and acoustic research, in bite-size form. Plus other cool stuff having to do with sound.

Frequency and amplitude can be used to identify individual wild wolvesthese researchers developed a code that was able to identify captive Eastern wolves by their howls. Naturally, they wanted to see if it was possible to do a similar identification on wild wolves, and lo and behold, it worked! They used both frequency and amplitude to identify wolves; the use of amplitude is especially interesting. This has really great implications for use of acoustic monitoring in wolf surveys.

Social mole rats have more complex vocal repertoire than solitary mole ratsdid you know mole rats had vocal repertoires? I didn’t. There are social species and solitary species, and here the idea is that sociality necessitates a more complex vocal repertoire than solitary life. Interesting implications for communication across lots of social species.

Signs of stress found in vocalizations of translocated elephantsan elephant herd got translocated, and their vocalizations showed that they were a little stressed out by that. They got higher-pitched, which is an indicator of stress.

Fun link of the week: The Times gets a bout of nostalgia and fills its newsroom with the sounds of typewriters. Maybe it’ll make their reporters more productive…or just infinitely more annoyed.


Soundbites is a weekly (biweekly, occasionally) feature of the coolest, newest bioacoustics, soundscape, and acoustic research, in bite-size form. Plus other cool stuff having to do with sound. Can you believe it’s September already? I can’t! This is a frog-heavy post because a lot of interesting frog stuff has been coming out lately; my apologies to marine mammal fans.

Multimodality as a frog coping mechanism for traffic noisewhat’s multimodality, you ask? Multimodality refers to communicating in more than one sensory mode; in this case, using both vocalizations and visual cues to communicate with potential mates. While these authors found that switching sensory modalities wasn’t the case for European tree frogs, they do say that this may happen in other species (like the tungara frog I mentioned in my post about the Frog Communication Symposium).

Traffic noise causes stress in frogsthis is VERY cool. Traffic noise playback causes physiological signs of stress in the form of increased corticosteroids in female wood frogs, who use the chorus of male frogs to orient toward the breeding pond. Not only is there stress, but they tend to freeze up and not move, which may impede breeding migration. This may be because the stress hormone is causing an immobility response, or because they can’t figure out where the chorus is due to masking.

Fun link of the weekyou know how usually I post a pop press article or a video here? Well this week, it’s a third paper. It’s a paper on coffee roasting acoustics. Apparently it might be helpful for coffee roasters to listen to their beans cracking. I don’t drink coffee, but many of the ORCAA do (Holger especially!), so this seems like a great way of combining two of the lab’s loves!

bluetagged2 (2)
Tagged blue whale off the coast of Southern California. Taken under NMFS permit #14534 by J. Calambokidis.

Today’s blog comes from aboard the ‘R/V’ Truth (well technically I’m at Starbucks now, yay wi-fi). I’m down in Southern California for two weeks working on the SOCAL-BRS project. This is a multi-year effort to study the behavior of marine mammals in the Southern California Bight, specifically the reactions of these protected species to specific sounds including naval sonar. All this will help regulatory agencies better understand the risks and effects of sound exposure to marine mammals so they can make more informed decisions. I’m here as an associate scientist with Southall Environmental Associates, Inc, but this project is a huge collaboration. I get to work with folks from Cascadia Research Collective, the Friedlaender Lab at OSU’s Marine Mammal InstituteMoss Landing Marine Laboratory’s Vertebrate Ecology Lab, the  Goldbogen Lab at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station, NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Navy marine mammal research personnel, and of course the amazing crew from Truth Aquatics (our boat charter) out of Santa Barbara.

A tagging boat dropping off some gear.
A tagging boat dropping off some gear.

BRS stands for Behavioral Response Study. My master’s research is all on testing the potential use of a new kind of tag for these types of studies, so I’m very lucky to be participating in such a project for my third field season.  Currently, these types of studies use tags that combine fine scale  behavioral sensors and passive acoustic recorders (in our case, DTAGs developed by folks at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute) to monitor potential changes in an individual animal’s behavior in response to a controlled sound exposure projected from a boat. This project is really important for investigating exactly how marine mammals are affected by anthropogenic noise such as naval sonar.

workspace pano
The whole database set up….so many wires!
WILD in the midst of a busy afternoon: boat tracks, instrument deployments, and animal sightings!
WILD in the midst of a busy afternoon is filled with boat tracks, instrument deployments, and animal sightings!

I sort of have a bunch of jobs on the boat. My main duties are as database network manager and operation of WILD (Whale Identification and Logging Database) software that allows us to combine location data from our three research vessels, animal sightings from our visual observers, and instrument deployment from our various teams. I serve as an assistant for Chief Scientist Brandon Southall, helping him coordinate the different science teams and directing the captain when Brandon is out on one of the small boats. I help with radio telemetry, visual observations, and try my best not to get sunburnt. Oh…and this year we have a smoothie bar! So I moonlight as smoothie barista due to my incredible smoothie-making skills.

One of the perks: a sunrise over Catalina Island
One of the perks: a sunrise over Catalina Island

There is some downtime while we are on the search for whales (great time for catching up on scholarly reading!) mixed with crazy hectic long days when we’ve got multiple tags out and successful playback sequences. I just wanted to share some pictures of the daily grind, and daily gifts, for those of you who are land locked.

Check out all those links above to learn more – especially the official SOCAL-BRS’ blog.

Another great sunrise
Another great sunrise
Home for the next two weeks.
Home for the next two weeks.
Blue whale flukes
Blue whale flukes. Taken under NMFS permit #14534 by J. Calambokidis.