2pABa1 – Snap chat: listening in on the peculiar acoustic patterns of snapping shrimp, the noisiest animals on the reef – Ashlee Lillis

2pABa1 – Snap chat: listening in on the peculiar acoustic patterns of snapping shrimp, the noisiest animals on the reef – Ashlee Lillis

Snap chat: listening in on the peculiar acoustic patterns of snapping shrimp, the noisiest animals on the reef

Ashlee Lillis – ashlee@whoi.edu
T. Aran Mooney – amooney@whoi.edu

Marine Research Facility
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
266 Woods Hole Road
Woods Hole, MA 02543

Popular version of paper 2pABa1
Presented Tuesday afternoon, November 29, 2016
172nd ASA Meeting, Honolulu

Characteristic soundscape recorded on a coral reef in St. John, US Virgin Islands. The conspicuous crackle is produced by many tiny snapping shrimp.

Put your head underwater in almost any tropical or sub-tropical coastal area and you will hear a continuous, static-like noise filling the water. The source of this ubiquitous sizzling sound found in shallow-water marine environments around the world was long considered a mystery of the sea. It wasn’t until WWII investigations of this underwater sound, considered troublesome, that hidden colonies of a type of small shrimp were discovered as the cause of the pervasive crackling sounds (Johnson et al., 1947).

Individual snapping shrimp (Figure 1), sometimes referred to as pistol shrimp, measure smaller than a few centimeters, but produce one of the loudest of all sounds in nature using a specialized snapping claw. The high intensity sound is actually the result of a bubble popping when the claw is closed at incredibly high speed, creating not only the characteristic “snap” sound but also a flash of light and extremely high temperature, all in a fraction of a millisecond (Versluis et al., 2000). Because these shrimp form large, dense aggregations, living unseen within reefs and rocky habitats, the combination of individual snaps creates the consistent crackling sound familiar to mariners. Snapping is used by shrimp for defense and territorial interactions, but likely serves other unknown functions based on our recent studies.


[Insert Figure 1. Images of the species of snapping shrimp, Alpheus heterochaelis, we are using to test hypotheses in the lab. This isthe dominant species of snapping shrimp found coastally in the Southeast United States, but there are hundreds of different species worldwide, easily identified by their relatively large snapping claw. ]

Since snapping shrimp produce the dominant sound in many marine regions, changes in their activity or population substantially alters ambient sound levels at a given location or time. This means that the behavior of snapping shrimp exerts an outsized influence on the sensory environment for a variety of marine animals, and has implications for the use of underwater sound by humans (e.g., harbor defense, submarine detection). Despite this fundamental contribution to the acoustic environment of temperate and coral reefs, relatively little is known about snapping shrimp sound patterns, and the underlying behaviors or environmental influences. So essentially, we ask the question: what is all the snapping about?


[Insert Figure 2. Photo showing an underwater acoustic recorder deployed in a coral reef setting. Recorders can be left to record sound samples at scheduled times (e.g. every 10 minutes) so that we can examine the long-term temporal trends in snapping shrimp acoustic activity on the reef.]

Recent advances in underwater recording technology and interest in passive acoustic monitoring have aided our efforts to sample marine soundscapes more thoroughly (Figure 2), and we are discovering complex dynamics in snapping shrimp sound production. We collected long-term underwater recordings in several Caribbean coral reef systems and analyzed the snapping shrimp snap rates. Our soundscape data show that snap rates generally exhibit daily rhythms (Figure 3), but that these rhythms can vary over short spatial scales (e.g., opposite patterns between nearby reefs) and shift substantially over time (e.g., daytime versus nighttime snapping during different seasons). These acoustic patterns relate to environmental variables such as temperature, light, and dissolved oxygen, as well as individual shrimp behaviors themselves.


[Insert Figure 3. Time-series of snap rates detected on two nearby USVI coral reefs for a week-long recording period. Snapping shrimp were previously thought to consistently snap more during the night, but we found in this study location that shrimp were more active during the day, with strong dawn and dusk peaks at one of the sites. This pattern conflicts with what little is known about snapping behaviors and is motivating further studies of why they snap.]

The relationships between environment, behaviors, and sound production by snapping shrimp are really only beginning to be explored. By listening in on coral reefs, our work is uncovering intriguing patterns that suggest a far more complex picture of the role of snapping shrimp in these ecosystems, as well as the role of snapping for the shrimp themselves. Learning more about the diverse habits and lifestyles of snapping shrimp species is critical to better predicting and understanding variation in this dominant sound source, and has far-reaching implications for marine ecosystems and human applications of underwater sound.



Johnson, M. W., F. Alton Everest, and Young, R. W. (1947). “The role of snapping shrimp (Crangon and Synalpheus) in the production of underwater noise in the sea,” Biol. Bull. 93, 122–138.

Versluis, M., Schmitz, B., von der Heydt, A., and Lohse, D. (2000). “How snapping shrimp snap: through cavitating bubbles,” Science, 289, 2114–2117. doi:10.1126/science.289.5487.2114


5aNS6 – The Perceived Annoyance of Urban Soundscapes – Adam Craig

5aNS6 – The Perceived Annoyance of Urban Soundscapes – Adam Craig

The term ‘soundscape’ is widely used to describe the sonic landscape and can be considered the auditory equivalent of a visual landscape. Current soundscape research looks into the view of sound assessment in terms of perception and has been the subject of large scale projects such as the Positive Soundscapes Project (Davies et al. 2009) i.e. the emotional attributes associated with particular sounds. This research addresses the limitations of current noise assessment methods by taking into account the relationship between the acoustic environment and the emotional responses and behavioural characteristics of people living within it. Related research suggests that a variety of objective and subjective factors influence the effects of exposure to noise, including age, locale, cross-cultural differences (Guyot at el. 2005) and the time of year (Yang and Kang, 2005). A key aspect of this research area is the subjective effect of the soundscape on the listener. This paradigm emphasises the subjective perception of sound in an environment – and whether it is perceived as being positive or negative. This approach dovetails with advancing sound and music classification research which aims to categorise sounds in terms of their emotional impact on the listener.

Annoyance is one of the main factors which contribute to a negative view of environmental noise, and can lead to stress-related health conditions. Subjective perception of environmental sounds is dependent upon a variety of factors related to the sound, the geographical location and the listener. Noise maps used to communicate information to the public about environmental noise in a given geographic location are based on simple noise level measurements, and do not include any information regarding how perceptually annoying or otherwise the noise might be.


Figure 1 Selected locations for recording – image courtesy of Scottish Noise Mapping

This study involved subjective assessment by a large panel of listeners (N=167) of a corpus of sixty pre-recorded urban soundscapes collected from a variety of locations around Glasgow City Centre (see figure 1). Binaural recordings were taken at three points during each 24 hour period in order to capture urban noise during day, evening and night. Perceived annoyance was measured using Likert and numerical scales and each soundscape measured in terms of arousal and positive/negative valence (see figure 2).


Figure 2 Arousal/Valance Circumplex Model Presented in Listening Tests

Coding of each of the soundscapes would be essential process in order to test the effects of the location on the variables provided by the online survey namely annoyance score (verbal), annoyance score (numeric), quadrant score, arousal score, and valence score. The coding was based on the environment i.e. urban (U), semi-open (S), or open (O); the density of traffic i.e. high (H), mid (M), low (L); and the distance form the main noise source (road traffic) using two criteria >10m (10+) and <10m (10-). The coding resulted in eight different location types; UH10-, UH10+, UM10+, UL10-, SM10+, SL10-, SL10+, and OL10+.

To capture quantitative information about the actual audio recordings themselves, the MIRToolkit for MATLAB was used to extract acoustical features from the dataset. Several functions were identified that could be meaningful for measuring the soundscapes in terms of loudness, spectral shape, but also rhythm, which could be thought of in not so musical terms but as the rate and distribution of events within a soundscape.

As expected, correlations between extracted features and locations suggest where there are many transient events, higher energy levels, and where the type of events include harsh and dissonant sounds i.e. heavy traffic, resulted in higher annoyance scores and higher arousal scores but perceived more negatively than quiet areas. In those locations where there are fewer transient events, lower energy levels, and there are less harsh and possibly more positive sounds i.e. birdsong, resulted in lower annoyance scores and lower arousal scores as well as being perceived more positively than busy urban areas. The results shed light on the subjective annoyance of environmental sound in a range of locations and provide the reader with an insight as to what psychoacoustic features may contribute to these views of urban soundscapes.


Davies, W., Adams, M., Bruce, N., Cain, R., Jennings, P., Carlyle, A., … Plack, C. (2009, October 26). A positive soundscape evaluation system. Retrieved from http://usir.salford.ac.uk/2468/1/Davies_et_al_soundscape_evaluation_euronoise_2009.pdf

Guyot, F., Nathanail, C., Montignies, F., & Masson, B. (2005). Urban sound environment quality through a physical and perceptive classification of sound sources : a cross-cultural study Methodology.

Scottish Noise Mapping (2014). Scottish Noise Mapping: Map Search [Online] http://gisapps.aecomgis.com/scottishnoisemapping_p2/default.aspx#/Main. [Accessed 20th June 2014]

Yang, W., & Kang, J. (2005). Soundscape and Sound Preferences in Urban Squares: A Case Study in Sheffield. Journal of Urban Design, 10(1), 61–80. doi:10.1080/13574800500062395


Adam Craig – Adam.Craig@gcu.ac.uk

Don Knox – D.Knox@gcu.ac.uk
David Moore – J.D.Moore@gcu.ac.uk


Glasgow Caledonian University
School of Engineering and Built Environment
70 Cowcaddens Road
United Kingdom
G4 0BA


Popular version of paper 5aNS6

Presented Friday morning, October 31st 2014

168th ASA Meeting, Indianapolis



1aAB4 – What does a Greater Prairie-Chicken sound like? It’s not your typical cock-a-doodle-doo! – Cara Whalen

1aAB4 – What does a Greater Prairie-Chicken sound like? It’s not your typical cock-a-doodle-doo! – Cara Whalen

It is 5 o’clock in the morning and only a hint of sunlight is visible on the horizon. Besides the sound of a light breeze swirling through the grass, all is quiet on the Nebraska prairie. Everything seems to be asleep. Then, suddenly, “whhooo-doo-doooohh” breaks the silence. The prairie-chickens have arrived.

The Greater Prairie-Chicken is a medium-sized grouse that lives on the prairies of central North America (Figure 1a) (Schroeder and Robb 1993). Prairie-chickens are well-known for their breeding activities in which the males congregate in groups each spring and perform elaborate courtship displays to attract females (Figure 1b). The areas where the males gather, called “leks,” are distributed across the landscape. Female prairie-chickens visit leks every morning to observe and compare males until a suitable one is chosen. After mating, females leave the leks to nest and raise their broods on their own, while the males remain on the leks and continue to perform courtship displays. Click the link to watch a video clip of prairie chickens lekking.

whalen_figure_1a whalen_figure_1b

Figure 1a: A male Greater Prairie-Chicken. Figure 1b: A male prairie-chicken performs a courtship display for a female.

These complex courtship behaviors do not occur in silence. Vocalization plays an important role in the mate choice behavior of prairie-chickens. As part of a larger study addressing the effects of electricity producing wind turbine farms on prairie-chicken ecology, we wanted to learn more about the acoustic properties of prairie-chicken calls. We did this by recording the sound of prairie-chicken vocalizations at leks in the Nebraska Sandhills. We visited the leks in the very early morning and set up audio recorders, which were placed close enough to prairie-chickens on their leks to obtain high quality recordings (Figure 2a). Sitting in a blind at the edges of leks (Figure 2b), we observed prairie-chickens while they were lekking and collected the audio recordings.


Figure 2a: We used audio recorders to record male prairie-chicken vocalizations at the leks. Figure 2b: We observed lekking prairie-chickens and recorded vocalizations by sitting in a blind at the edge of a lek.

Male Greater Prairie-Chickens use four prominent vocalizations while on the leks: the “boom,” “cackle,” “whine” and “whoop.” The four vocalizations are distinct and serve different purposes.

The boom is used as part of the courtship display, so one function is to attract mates. Booms travel a long distance across the prairie, so another purpose of the call is to advertise lek location to other prairie-chickens (Sparling 1981, 1983). Click to listen to a boom sound clip

or to watch a boom video clip we recorded at the leks.

The “cackles” are short calls typically given in rapid succession. Prairie-chickens use the cackle as an aggressive or territorial call (Sparling 1981, 1983) or as a warning to alert other prairie-chickens of potential danger, such as an approaching prairie falcon, coyote or other predator. Click to listen to a cackle sound clip.

The “whine” is slightly longer in duration than the cackle; whines and cackles are often used together. The purpose of the whine is similar to that of the cackle. It serves as an aggressive and territorial call, although it is thought that whines are somewhat less aggressive than cackles (Sparling 1981, 1983). Click to listen to a whine sound clip

or to watch a video clip of cackles and whines (the cackles are the shorter notes and the whines are the longer notes).

The “whoop” is used for mate attraction. Males typically use the whoop when females are present on the lek (Sparling 1981, 1983). Click to listen to a whoop sound clip

or to watch a whoop video clip.

We measured acoustic characteristics of the vocalizations captured on the recordings so we could evaluate their features in detail. We are using this information about the vocalizations in a study of the effects of wind turbine sound on Greater Prairie-Chickens (Figure 3). We hope to determine whether the vocalizations produced by prairie-chickens near a wind farm are different in any way from those produced by prairie-chickens farther away. For example, do the prairie chickens near wind turbines call at a higher pitch in response to wind turbine sound? Also, do the prairie chickens near wind turbines vocalize louder? Ultimately we would like to know if components of the prairie-chickens’ vocalizations are masked by the sounds of the wind turbines.


Figure 3: We are conducting a study of the effects of wind turbine noise on Greater Prairie-Chickens.


The effect of anthropogenic noise is an issue not limited to Greater Prairie-Chickens and wind turbines. As humans create increasingly noisy landscapes through residential and industrial development, vehicle traffic, air traffic and urban sprawl, the threats posed to birds and other wildlife are likely to be significant. It is important to be aware of the potential effects of anthropogenic sound and find ways to mitigate those effects as landscapes become noisier.



Schroeder, M. A., and L. A. Robb. 1993. Greater Prairie-Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido). In The Birds of North America, no. 36 (A. Poole, P. Stettenheim, and F. Gill, Eds.). Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, and American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C.

Sparling, D. W. 1981. Communication in prairie grouse. I. Information content and intraspecific functions of principal vocalizations. Behavioral and Neural Biology 32:463-486.

Sparling, D. W. 1983. Quantitative analysis of prairie grouse vocalizations. Condor 85:30-42.


Cara Whalen – cara.whalen@huskers.unl.edu

Mary Bomberger Brown – mbrown9@unl.edu
Larkin Powell – lpowell3@unl.edu
Jennifer Smith – jsmith60@unl.edu
University of Nebraska – Lincoln

School of Natural Resources
3310 Holdrege Street
Lincoln, NE 68583


Edward J. Walsh – Edward.Walsh@boystown.org
JoAnn McGee – JoAnn.McGee@boystown.org
Boys Town National Research Hospital
555 N. 30th Street
Omaha, NE 68131


Popular version of paper 1aAB4

Presented Monday morning, October 27th, 2014

168th ASA Meeting, Indianapolis


Acoustic absorption of green roof samples commercially available in southern Brazil – Stephan Paul

Acoustic absorption of green roof samples commercially available in southern Brazil – Stephan Paul

Investigations into the benefits of green roofs have shown that such roofs provide many environmental benefits, such as thermal conditioning, air cleaning and rain water absorption. Analysing the way green roofs are usually constructed suggests that they may have also two interesting acoustical properties: sound insulation and sound absorption. The first property would provide protection of the house’s interior from environmental noise produced outside the house. Sound absorption, on the other hand, would reduce the environmental noise in the environment itself, by dissipating sound energy that is being irradiated on to the roof from environmental noise sources. Thus, sound absorption can help to reduce environmental noise in urban settings. Despite of being an interesting characteristic, information regarding acoustic properties of green roofs and their effects on the noise environment is still sparse. This work looked into the sound absorption of two types of green roofs commercially available in Brazil: the alveolar and the hexa system.

alveolar system

Fig 1: illustration of the alveolar system (left) and hexa system (right)

Sound absorption can be quantified by means of a sound absorption coefficient α, which ranges between 0 and 1 and is usually a function of frequency. Zero means that all incident energy is being reflected back into the environment and α = 1 means that all energy is being dissipated in the layers of the material, here the green roof. To find out how much sound energy the alveolar and the hexa system absorb standardized measurements were made in a reverberant chamber according to ISO-354 for different variations of both systems. The alveolar system used a thin layer of 2.5 cm of soil like substrate with and without grass and a 4 cm layer of substrate only. The hexa system was measured with layers of 4 and 6 cm of substrate without vegetation and 6 cm of substrate with a layer of vegetation of sedum. For all systems, high absorption coefficients (α > 0.7) were found for medium and high frequencies. This was expected due to the highly porous structure of the substrate. Nevertheless the alveolar system with grass, the alveolar system with 4 cm of substrate, the hexa with 6 cm of substrate and the hexa with sedum already provide high absorption for frequencies as low as 250 or 400 Hz. Thus, these green roofs systems are particularly interesting in urban settings, as traffic noise is usually low frequency noise and is hardly absorbed by smooth surfaces such as pavements or façades.

absorbtion coefficient

Fig 2: absorption coefficient of the alveolar samples (left) and hexa samples (rigth).

In the next step of this research is intended to make computational simulations of the noise reduction provided by the hexa and alveolar system in different noisy situations such as near airports or intense urban traffic.


Stephan Paul – stephan.paul@eac.ufsm.br

Program Acoustical Engineering
Fed. University of Santa Maria
Santa Maria, RS, Brazil


Ricardo Brum – ricardo.brum@eac.ufsm.br
Program Acoustical Engineering
Fed. University of Santa Maria
Santa Maria, RS, Brazil


Andrey Ricardo da Silva – andrey.rs@ufsc.br
Fed. University of Santa Catarina
Florianópolis, SC, Brazil
Tenile Rieger Piovesan – arqui.tp@gmail.com
Graduate program in Civil Engineering
Fed. University of Santa Maria
Santa Maria, RS, Brazil