Help: Why study bio-acoustics?

I saw this question in Lupe’s feedback. It seemed like a good one for us all to wrestle with. Thoughts?

Lupe wrote: In my presentation I didn’t include why scientists were doing this type of research on bio-acoustics. There was plenty of interest on whether this research was going to benefit humanity in one way or another or if scientist were doing this just for science’s sake.

This was a pretty difficult question to answer since it can be answered multiple ways. I talked a little bit about WNS and how studying bats benefits humanity because bats are very beneficial to people. But I couldn’t give a good answer as far as the purpose for the study of bio- acoustics. Obviously we do it to study bat behavior but the question came back around to why. It almost seemed as people were looking for a bigger meaning and perhaps that is some thing that is missing in my program.

5 thoughts on “Help: Why study bio-acoustics?

  1. Hi Lupe,
    Here’s a start to the tough question you posed!
    I am thinking about the zillions of questions we have about bats and how they live together, thriving, surviving, pup-raising. Without a sense of how they communicate, we can’t answer many of those questions. Without those answers, we humans lose out on the opportunity to learn about ourselves, (as you always learn something about yourself and your culture when you leave it to travel elsewhere). Perhaps there are better ways for us to organize ourselves.

    I’m thinking about how polar bears need to adapt their hunting strategies to survive in a changing landscape. There is food, but they’ve evolved almost not to see it. If you believe in intervention: How do we point it out and get new knowledge to take hold within the species? If we want to help bats survive in a changing landscape and climate, it could help if we could communicate with them and understand how they communicate with each other. –Martha


  2. I wonder if it’s not better to leave that unanswered. Isn’t studying purely for the sake of curiosity a worthwhile pursuit? When we try to answer why we study things do we inevitably end up narrowing our perceived outcomes?

    I remember an article or maybe it was just brought up in discussion during the last iSwoop project about how most of science today is driven by a purpose or goal. For example most research is intended to lead to a new drug or some other benefit to society.

    I would answer to the original question “someone studies bio-acoustics because of curiosity”… and really isn’t the fact that humans are curious the reason society is where it is today?



    • Josh, HELLO!!! and thank you for your insight. I actually hate this question. Everyone wants a direct benefit to humans. Not everyone studies cancer 🙂 There is a large proportion of scientists that work on what is considered basic research, our work falls into this category. More on this later.


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