Eavesdroppers: How Scientists Are Learning to Listen in on the Animal Kingdom: Four Stories on Wildlife and Sound

Typically, if scientists want to study animals in the wild they rely on field observations by eye. If they want to track those species to know where they are, where they are going, and how they behave, then researchers may capture and tag them. These methods, however, are difficult if not impossible for rare and hard-to-see species like whales in the ocean, elephants under a forest canopy, or birds at night. Sound gives scientists a new way of knowing what is swimming, roaming, and flying where. And some scientists are using these sounds for conservation, to identify the habitats animals need to survive and to protect the animals from human activity. Of course, as with any new science, there are unanswered questions. The uncertainties are especially profound in the ocean, where researchers know little about how marine creatures hear. Scientists are still searching for answers, but now they have a new way to find them.

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