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Sound Perspectives
Christine Erbe
Centre for Marine Science and Technology Curtin University Perth, Western Australia 6102 Australia
Micheal L. Dent
Department of Psychology
University at Buffalo The State University of New York Buffalo, New York 14260 USA
Animal Bioacoustics
Members of the Animal Bioacoustics Technical Committee have diverse backgrounds and skills, which they apply to the study of sound in animals.
Animal bioacoustics is a field of research that encompasses sound production and reception by animals, animal communication, biosonar, active and passive acous- tic technologies for population monitoring, acoustic ecology, and the effects of noise on animals. Animal bioacousticians come from very diverse backgrounds: engineering, physics, geophysics, oceanography, biology, mathematics, psychol- ogy, ecology, and computer science. Some of us work in industry (e.g., petroleum, mining, energy, shipping, construction, environmental consulting, tourism), some work in government (e.g., Departments of Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, Parks and Wildlife, Defense), and some are traditional academics. We all come together to join in the study of sound in animals, a truly interdisciplinary field of research.
Why study animal bioacoustics? The motivation for many is conservation. Many animals are vocal, and, consequently, passive listening provides a noninvasive and efficient tool to monitor population abundance, distribution, and behavior. Listen- ing not only to animals but also to the sounds of the physical environment and man-made sounds, all of which make up a soundscape, allows us to monitor en- tire ecosystems, their health, and changes over time. Industrial development often follows the principles of sustainability, which includes environmental safety, and bioacoustics is a tool for environmental monitoring and management. Animal sys- tems can be superior to man-made systems in various ways. As a consequence, understanding bioacoustic systems can advance the development of biomimetic technology such as sonar hardware and software. Last but not least, studying ani- mal hearing and hearing impairment holds great potential for understanding hu- man hearing and mitigating human auditory injury and disease.
One research topic of interest to animal bioacousticians is animal communication (Bradbury and Vehrencamp, 2011; also see articles in this issue of Acoustics Today by Tyack on communication by marine mammals and Pollack on the bioacoustics of insects). Animals send signals to “persuade” others to mate with them, to inform them about some object in the environment, and to coordinate group hunts and other social behaviors. There are often costs to producing animal signals, namely, that it makes one vulnerable to predators in the vicinity. Yet not communicating could be costlier. Effective acoustic communication by animals is essential for sur- vival in many species, and many animal bioacousticians have parsed the process to better understand what animals are doing (e.g., Narins et al., 2006).
Some of us study the first stage of the animal communication process, the send- er. Animals produce different signals based on their anatomy, such as the size of their signal-production apparatus. Larger animals typically produce lower fre- quency sounds than do smaller animals, and in many species such as frogs, this makes males more attractive to females who are deciding with whom to mate. Animals can produce sounds by banging body parts against the surface, such as head-banging termites, tail-slapping beavers, and breaching whales. Others rub
 ©2017 Acoustical Society of America. All rights reserved. volume 13, issue 2 | Summer 2017 | Acoustics Today | 65

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