ScienceFutures ScienceFutures

The Sound Canopy


We very rarely think about the sounds that are part of the research process, and yet the sounds of science provide a whole new way of experiencing research work! The Sound Canopy was created as a place to relax in the shade and discover a completely different aspect of science. It was custom-made for Science Futures by Dr Liz Edwards at Lancaster University. Making the Sound Canopy shows a slideshow of the construction

Scroll down to get a ‘taster’ of some of the sounds you can experience.

Sounds of space 

Amazing natural radio emissions of our planet as detected by a remote VLF (very low frequency) receiver in Antarctica. These signals, which are generated by lightning activity and geomagnetic storms driven by the sun, can be directly converted to ‘sound’ revealing a series of weird and wonderful noises. You can experience more sounds of space here. – Nigel Meredith (British Antarctic Survey)

Clicks, pops, whistles, buzzes and brays; sounds of the bottlenose dolphin

Our research eavesdrops on the vocalisations of bottlenose dolphins to inform their conservation. “Signature whistles” are unique to individual dolphins and act like names that we can use to track individuals over space and time. The donkey-like “bray calls” and rapid echolocation clicks called “buzzes” tell us when they forage. – Laura Palmer and Dr Stephanie King (University of Bristol), Dr Sarah Perry (Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre)

Wild Water Whales Acoustic Recovery Project (WWWARP)

South Georgia is a sub-Antarctic biodiversity hotspot, but was historically decimated by whaling. Now whales are finally returning, with scientists monitoring population recovery via underwater acoustics. In this clip from the Antarctic winter, listen to crooning humpbacks, gulping southern rights, feeding blues, and even the low-frequency rumble of fin whales. – Dr Jen Jackson (British Antarctic Survey Ecosystems Program) and Dr Sarah Marley (Scotlandʼs Rural College)

Bioacoustics of a tree

This recording gives you an idea of what’s going on inside the trunk of a tree. Thanks to a D.I.Y. setup created especially for this recording, you can hear the flow of water as it travels from the ground to the leaves in the canopy of a tree. The water travels through the xylem in the trunk, which is composed of dead, thick cells that act as pipes for transporting water and nutrients up the tree. You can hear many more sounds of plants on Youtube.- SONOQUILIBRIUM 

Dawn Chorus at Wytham Woods, Oxfordshire

Listen to the dawn chorus at Wytham Woods, one of the most researched pieces of woodland in the world with ecological research programmes dating back to the 1940s. The site is exceptionally diverse, with over 500 species of plants and 800 species of butterflies and moths. – Nicholas O’Brien (Upcycled Sounds

Yellow-necked Mice in their nest

The squeaks in the original recording are at 21kHz, which many adults (especially older adults) canʼt hear. To allow us to hear the squeaks,this clip has been filtered and heterodyned down, a processing technique that has been used here to convert the signal to a lower frequency. – Dr Curt Lamberth and Natalya Stone (Department of Zoology, University of Oxford

Itsy In Utero

Before birth, our auditory environment is rich in sounds from the external world. Researchers from Lancaster University are asking; what does the outside world sound like in the womb and how does this shape our development? Here you can hear how Dad might sound when singing to his unborn baby. – Dr Kirsty Dunn (Developmental Psychology, Lancaster University)

A bee’s day in 60 seconds

Ever wondered what 10,000 honeybees sound like? Honeybees are always buzzing busily, even at night! During the day they are especially active as they collect pollen and nectar, ventilate the hive, and make honey. We recorded a small colonyʼs sounds so you can follow them through their day! – Stella Felsinger, Rui Goncalves, Raquel de Sousa, Wright Bee Lab (Department of Zoology, University of Oxford)

Sounding out Pollution: Can you hear what’s in the air?

Listen to changes in pollution along a route across Birmingham, from rural Lickey Hills, through the city centre, and out to Sutton Park.  Sounds along the route represents rising and falling particulate pollutants, PM2.5 and PM10. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels are represented as three-note chords, denoting the minimum, mean and maximum levels of modelled air quality data at specific locations. You can see the route and other sonifications here. – Dr Catherine Muller, Prof William Bloss, Dr James Hodgson, Dr Jian Zhong (University of Birmingham) and Robert Jarvis (Independent Sound Artist).

Biomedical sonification

Converting biomedical data to sound (sonification) may enable the discovery of disease in patients. To demonstrate the diagnostic potential of audio, we sonified the heart rate and breathing rhythms of actors performing a pained or meditative state. Hopefully, medical professionals will one day apply this technology to identify disease from sound. – Benediktas Valys, Aneta Stefanovska (Lancaster University) and Theatre Ulysses (Brijuni Croatia)

Stone Age Ice

Listen to the sound of air bubbles escaping from an ancient ice core collected from beneath Antarctica by BAS scientists and subsequently recorded by Pete Bucktrout in Cambridge. The ice core is around 200,000 years old which means that the air within this sample comes from the distant past  Pete Bucktrout (British Antarctic Survey)

Scanning the Brain

The sound of a Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner at the recently opened Brian Research and Imaging Centre (BRIC) at Plymouth. Youʼre hearing a set of Localizer scans – these are three-plane, low resolution scans which allow the scanner to work out exactly where the brain is insidethe magnet. Lasting approximately 25 seconds, they allow the planning of more detailed images for research purposes. – Wavell Vigers, University of Exeter, with thanks to Tim Reif and BRIC staff

University of Exeter