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Support Kickstart project to send 6 recordists to the Amazon

Arts, Bioacoustics Comments Off on Support Kickstart project to send 6 recordists to the Amazon

Franciso Lopez’s annual 2-week workshop in the Amazon offers field recordists an amazing opportunity to both explore the rainforest, and collaborate, learn, and create with a community of peers.  In recent years, the economic stresses we all feel have made it more difficult for sound artists to raise the funds for this unique experience.

This year, there’s a Kickstarter project going, which if successful will fund 6 artists for the trip, and assure that the program continues.  If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, it’s an online platform where entrepreneurs, artists, and others raise funds for worthy projects and product development; in return for your donation, you receive some of the fruits of the enterprise.  In this case, recordings!  Pledges are made now, and the project only proceeds if they meet their funding goal, at which point your pledge is paid out.

Let’s make it happen!

Great piece on noise and other regs in National Parks Traveller

Effects of Noise on Wildlife, Human impacts, News, Vehicles, Wildlands Comments Off on Great piece on noise and other regs in National Parks Traveller

The National Parks Traveller blog recently ran a great piece titled Give Us A National Park, Please, But Not its Regulations.  Here’s the lead:

We love our national parks. We love the wildlife they hold, the seashores with their sparkling sands, the forests with their wildlife and hiking trails, the soaring red-rock cliffs and plunging canyons.

But please, don’t ask us to abide by their regulations.

Uproars over managing off-road vehicles in both Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Big Cypress National Preserve, the oyster farm at Point Reyes National Seashore, air traffic over Grand Canyon National Park, snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park, and now bike races in Colorado National Monument all seem to drive home that point, no?

The piece goes on with evocative detail and interesting historical perspective on the Parks’ struggles to balance preservation and access.  Very well done.


Beaked whales avoid sonar at low sound levels

Effects of Noise on Wildlife, Science, Sonar Comments Off on Beaked whales avoid sonar at low sound levels

The latest in a series of studies looking at responses of beaked whales to Naval mid-frequency active sonar has provided some new details that reinforce our understanding that this family of deep-diving whales is extremely sensitive to noise intrusions.  The study, which took place on a US Navy training range in the Bahamas which is outfitted with seafloor recorders, found that beaked whales react to sonar signals below 142dB, and that they move an average of 16km away as soon as sonar operations begin, not returning until 2 to 3 days later.

It’s long been known that beaked whales tend to leave the range when exercises are taking place, but this study was the first time that some whales were tagged, to track exactly how far they went and how long they stayed away.

“Results… indicate that the animals prematurely stop vocalisations during a deep foraging dive when exposed to sonar. They then ascend slowly and move away from the source, but they do resume foraging dives once they are farther away,” said David Moretti, Principal Investigator for the US Navy.

“It was clear that these whales moved quickly out of the way of the [navy] sonars. We now think that, in some unusual circumstances, they are just unable to get out of the way and this ends up with the animals stranding and dying,” said Professor Ian Boyd, chief scientist on the research project. However, Boyd added “There is a tendency to blame the Navy for every stranding event and that is ridiculous.”

“Perhaps the most significant result from our experiments is the extreme sensitivity of these animals to disturbance,” said Boyd. “I am also worried that the general levels of sound that humans make in the ocean from all sorts of sources like ships, oil and gas exploration and renewable energy may be a much more serious problem for beaked whales and some other sensitive species.”

See good coverage from BBC and the Daily Mail, and read or download the research paper at PloS ONE.

Victoria wind farm rules allow towns to limit noise to protect quality of life

Human impacts, News, Wind turbines Comments Off on Victoria wind farm rules allow towns to limit noise to protect quality of life

New wind farm permitting rules adopted in the Australian state of Victoria place permitting authority in the hands of local councils, rather than the state Minister for Planning.  During  the recent campaign, the newly elected state government had called for  2km setbacks from non-consenting landowners, and shared payment plans for all residents within 1km.  While these provisions are not included in the new rules, local authorities are granted authority to assess “high amenity noise impacts,” which could lead to noise limits lower than those currently required by the law (of course, lower noise limits lead to larger setbacks from homes).

In Australia, a fair amount of research has looked at local reactions to wind farm noise, and the concept of “rural amenity” has emerged as a likely  factor in areas where moderate noise triggers more widespread complaints than expected.  The idea is basically that residents in some areas value rural quiet extremely highly, and in these places even distant turbines can trigger complaints; several windfarms have faced widespread reaction from  residents 2km (about 1.25 miles) away.

Scientists listen to habitats awakening in spring

Bioacoustics, News, Science, Wildlands Comments Off on Scientists listen to habitats awakening in spring

US News has a good piece today on Bryan Pijanowski’s research team at Purdue, about how the new field of soundscape ecology may help us to understand ecosystem dynamics and changes.

This April, when you step outside and hear the first sounds of spring, you won’t be hearing just songbirds and buzzing insects, but aural evidence of an awakening ecosystem. The emerging science of soundscape ecology is building on the established field of bioacoustics to create a new way of gauging ecosystem health and diversity—by listening.

“Natural sounds can be used like a canary in a coal mine, as a critical first indicator of environmental changes,” said Bryan Pijanowski, an ecologist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

Pijanowski and his colleagues outlined their vision of soundscape ecology in the March issue of BioScience. The new field will take a much broader approach to collecting and evaluating sound than ever before, although the authors caution that no coherent theory yet exists to categorize the ecological significance of all the sounds emanating from a landscape.

Scientists have been using sound as a tool for studying the natural world for some time, mainly through bioacoustics, the study of sounds made by animals. But most of these studies tend to focus on one or two individuals at a time, said Jesse Barber, a sensory ecologist at Boise State University in Idaho, who was not part of Pijanowski’s team.

“Using sound to try to discern something about the ecosystem as a whole is what is novel about soundscape ecology,” Barber said.

Follow the link at the top of this post to read the whole article.

Ontario court dismisses challenge to wind farm setback standards

Effects of Noise on Wildlife, News, Wind turbines Comments Off on Ontario court dismisses challenge to wind farm setback standards

An Ontario Superior Court has dismissed a legal challenge to the province’s wind farm siting standards, which call for 550 meter (1800 foot) setbacks in most cases. The Court ruled that it could only judge whether the process of coming up with the regulations followed proper protocols, including public consultation and the use of science-based evidence in coming to its conclusions. That lifts a cloud of uncertainty from developers of wind farms, says the president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association. “We’re expecting this to be a record year for wind development in Ontario,” Robert Hornung said in an interview. “This decision just helps everybody put their head down and focus on the work.”

“It is not the court’s function to question the wisdom of the minister’s decision, or even whether it was reasonable,” the court ruled Thursday. “If the minister followed the process mandates by the Environmental Bill of Rights, his decision is unassailable on a judicial review application.”

The Court pointed out that the province’s Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) can consider whether setbacks are reasonable, on a case-by-case basis.  In fact, an ERT review is currently underway, challenging the standard setbacks at a wind farm in Chatham-Kent, the first new wind farm to be permitted under the new law. Read the rest of this entry »

Wisconsin legislature nixes wind farm noise rules

Human impacts, News, Wind turbines Comments Off on Wisconsin legislature nixes wind farm noise rules

Following up on our previous coverage now-infamous Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s call for larger wind turbine setbacks, the a joint legislative committee that reviews pending new rules voted to abandon the planned implementation of new wind farm siting rules scheduled to go into effect on March 1. (See PSC site detailing the work of the committee that proposed the new rules, and this opinion piece by the committee vice-chair and co-author of a minority report supporting larger setbacks)

Republican legislators, now in the majority, agreed with Governor Walker that the rules as crafted would allow turbines too close to neighboring properties; Walker and his allies frame their objections as a property rights issue. Committee co-chair Rep. Jim Ott, said. “The biggest issue we heard came from testifiers at the hearing that 1,250 ft. is too close and will result in shadow flicker and noise issues.” Some wind farm neighbors also cite health issues resulting from stress and loss of sleep caused by the turbine noise, which also influenced the legislators.

The American Wind Energy Association said the PSC rule was restrictive enough, given that it set specific noise limits and restrictions on shadow flicker in addition to turbine distance setbacks.

“These rules were developed collaboratively by the wind energy industry and all major stakeholders in Wisconsin, based on input from six public hearings and two years of information gathering, to protect the interests of all involved parties,” said Jeff Anthony, director of business development at the American Wind Energy Association and a Wisconsin resident.

“We heard nearly nine hours of testimony during February’s hearing,” Ott said. “Based on the testimony — some pro and a lot of con — we decided to hold a motion to suspend the rule. This is a situation where the legislature is exercising its oversight of a public agency.”  It is expected that the legislature will authorize a new round of rule-making, with one bill calling on the PSC to revisit the issue and submit a new proposal within 7 months.


Lonely whale sings in its own frequency

Bioacoustics, News, Science Comments Off on Lonely whale sings in its own frequency

This story has been floating around for nearly ten years now, but I hadn’t come across it until Treehugger posted on it this week.  Click on over there for their normal rich set of links out to related themes and other sources on this one.

The short version of the story is that there’s a whale, first heard in 1989 and tracked since 1992, that sings at 52Hz, significantly higher than other large baleen whales.  No one else sings at this frequency, and he or she also travels an annual migratory path that misses contact with concentrations of other whales.  Scientists speculate that this animal is either a hybrid of two species, or a remnant of an unknown species.  Either way, it’s a lonely life, calling at a frequency other whales don’t respond to, and may not even hear. The Good website has a link to the sound itself, as well as a podcast that tells more of the story.