Acoustic ecology in UNESCO biosphere reserves

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Barclay, Leah
Gifford, Toby
Acoustic ecology is a dynamic interdisciplinary field that studies the social, cultural, and ecological aspects of our environment through sound. In the context of UNESCO biosphere reserves that seek to reconcile the conservation of cultural and biological diversity, acoustic ecology offers valuable tools to understand environmental and cultural changes from a diversity of perspectives. Biosphere Soundscapes is a large-scale interdisciplinary research project conceived in 2011 that studies and records the changing soundscapes of UNESCO biosphere reserves. The project is underpinned by the creative possibilities of acoustic ecology and rapidly emerging fields of biology concerned with the study of environmental patterns and changes through sound. Biosphere Soundscapes sits at the intersection of art and science, with the recordings providing valuable scientific data for biodiversity analysis and rich source material for education programs, community engagement and creative works that bring awareness to these environments. This project is designed to inspire communities across the world to listen to the environment and explore the value of sound as a measure for social, cultural and environmental health in UNESCO biosphere reserves. Biosphere Soundscapes is delivered through immersive residencies with artists and scientists, research laboratories, intensive masterclasses, virtual education programs and a diversity of creative projects spanning four continents. This article outlines the development of the project and introduces the framework of Biosphere Soundscapes through recent projects in Mexico and Australia designed to provide insight into the possibilities of acoustic ecology and practical pathways for biosphere reserves to engage with the project. Biosphere Soundscapes is designed as a platform for local and global communities to connect and collaborate in exploring the creative and scientific possibilities of acoustic ecology in UNESCO biosphere reserves.
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