DISSERTATION RESEARCH: The impact of novel sound on native acoustic communities

Project: Research project

Project Details


Natural environments throughout the world are experiencing increasing levels of unnatural noise. Many animals rely on sound to communicate. Unnatural noise can interfere with communication and therefore lead to reduced survival and reproduction. Studies of ecological impacts of increased noise on animals typically focus on noise from human activities, such as from transportation. Non-native animals may also be a source of noise as some invasive species produce loud sounds to attract mates and defend territories. These sounds may occur at certain sound frequencies or times, making it difficult for native animals to communicate. As a result, native and non-native animals may compete for the ability to send and receive signals, just as they compete for food and shelter, but this is poorly understood. The proposed research will use the invasion of Cuban treefrogs in Florida to understand how noisy invaders can impact native frog communication. By characterizing the calls of native frogs from invaded and uninvaded locations, and their responses to broadcasted Cuban treefrog sounds, this research will test whether noise produced by invasive species impacts the calling behavior of native frogs in the short- and long-term. This project will enhance our understanding of the ecological impact of unnatural noise, and identify the importance of acoustic competition for structuring animal communities.

Invasive species are one of the leading causes of global biodiversity loss and cost billions of dollars each year in the United States alone. Cuban treefrogs destroy electrical equipment, invade homes, and cause skin irritations in humans. They are also likely to affect native frogs by competing with them for available resources. Native frogs play an important role in the ecosystem, eat pest insects that damage crops, and are used by humans for food, bait, and pets. Identifying the impact of Cuban treefrogs on native frogs will help prioritize management efforts to protect these important animals. The findings of this research will be shared with Florida residents, and school-aged children in central Pennsylvania, through presentations and interactive displays. Additionally, Penn State University undergraduate students from groups poorly represented in science will be involved in the research and outreach components of the proposed work.

Effective start/end date6/1/125/31/14


  • National Science Foundation: $14,886.00


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