Exciting research


In ecoacoustics, audio recordings are used to analyze ecological relationships. Almost every organism produces sound waves as its life manifestation. Be it movement activity or communication, we can potentially hear which organism does what under which circumstances on the one hand, and we may contextualize the organism’s activity with the sounds of the environment on the other.

The SRF programme „Einstein“ dedicated an entire programme to ecoacoustics, Sounding Soil and Marcus Maeder: Watch programme from 21.11.2019 (only in German).

Sounding Soil is aninterdisciplinary research and art projectin which the sounds of soil ecosystems play the main role. The «Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology ICST»of the Zurich University of the Arts ZHdK first developed special soil sensors and adapted existing recording devices. This now allows us to listen to the soil and hear the crawling, scratching, communication sounds and eating noises of the animals underground.

Sounding Soil’s acoustic soil recordings and the soil samples obtained in parallel in 2017 and 2018 were evaluated and statistically analyzed. The first results show that differently used soils sound different, too.The analyses also indicate that the greater the diversity of living organisms in a soil, the more complex its sound. A scientific paper on this was published in the magazine «Soundscape» (pages 5 – 14).

The number of samples, however, was still too small to obtain statistically valid results. For this reason, in 2019 and 2020 further soils were investigated acoustically and compared with conventional examination methods. The acoustic signals and the underlying ecological processes in different soils were analyzed in additional long-term experiments. These analyses were used to investigate whether soil noise changes throughout the seasons or due to microclimatic conditions. The scientific paper on this is to be published in the next few months.

By the end of 2021, the results obtained should show whether acoustic soil recordings will be a simple and quick way to measure the activity of living organisms and biodiversity in the soil. If this is the case, such recordings could be used as a monitoring tool in the future.

Information on the soil ecosystem and ground noise


Marcus Maeder, artist and researcher, created Sounding Soil as a part of his doctoral research in environmental sciences at ETH Zurich.