The Woodland Soundscape Project

The Woodland Soundscape Project


The Woodland Soundscape Project is a multifaceted project organized by the author. The purpose of the project is to promote and inspire independent and group investigations into Soundscape and Acoustic Ecology. Our intention is to promote the use of soundscapes by providing and facilitating community and public interactions through education and artistic exploration. The paradigm below is considered to be our current cycle for the project overview. These independent stages to the project will help us to achieve our aims.mmunity Outreach

At its core, the project explores a new and innovative way of understanding the diversity and developmental growth of our woodland environments[1]. We have long since listened and enjoyed the soundscape of these environments, but have not yet explored soundscapes fully through data retrieval and analysis methods.

‘The Woodland Soundscape Project’ is an acoustic study of ancient woodlands, indigenous forests, and commercial forests. By using purpose built sound recording equipment, the acoustic properties can be examined through spectrographic representation, for establishing and understanding the health and diversity of a specific area of natural interest[2].

A deeper investigation of the species present can be represented through a process of algorithmic interpretation, known as the Acoustic Complexity Index (ACI)[3], to gain graphic data on the development of bird species, which is regarded as an indicator for overall biodiversity.


Screen Shot 2017-07-14 at 16.42.49

dFigure 1: Recording in the field

The Woodland Soundscape Project

2.0 AIMS

  • To help promote our natural resources and woodland areas.
  • To bring more awareness to the importance of our natural environment.
  • To develop a specialised skill base in the field of ‘Acoustic Ecology’.


  • To provide a record of formative data linked to a specific area.
  • To provide a database of sound recordings for future record.
  • To provide engineering and acoustic support, through innovation and site specific design.
  • To create a database of recorded data for current and future research.
  • To provide accessibility worldwide to the acoustic experience of location soundscape.


  1. ACI based report and analysis of species and sonic environment.
  2. Soundscape recordings: As a download, Cd, MP3 and web content.
  3. Installation of soundscapes and images for display in woodland centres.
  4. Deeper experience Guided Walks.
  5. Sonic art installations and Acousmatic works for performance in concert venues with multiple speaker diffusion systems.


This process of analysis is the most effective way of detailing the dynamics of an environment, as it provides quantitative data in regards to bird population, and it is far more detailed a process than counting birds, which are limited to specific areas, and subject to human error. By turning this information into a graphical representation, comparisons can be made on the efficacy of conservation as projects become realised.

The algorithmic conversion of the ACI Index indicates bird species by frequency classification, and population / density by dynamic (decibel) classification.


The expected results will be area specific. In areas where much work has to be devoted over the years, we expect to find a very large diverse group of animals contributing to the Biophony. Where areas have been neglected we expect that the number of animal contributions will fall naturally, but we won't know until we produce the data. We will also expect to find areas where the soundscape will be disturbed by human activity either through logging, selective logging or leisure activities. We hope to be able to provide a clear picture through a sound map, in which these areas can then be identified and methods for their management can then be altered accordingly. The variety of results is equal to that of the variety of sounds that can be found in these environments, and so, the number of possible discoveries may be as enlightening as the discoveries themselves. What is known is that these discoveries lie dormant until we step forward and actively pursue their collection.

©Huw McGregor 2016

The Woodland Soundscape Project


There is much to discover on a site in terms of sonic interactions too. How birds are creating their networks, for example, and how other animals fit within that scheme [4][5]. How they also use different spaces to improve their vocalisations[6], as well as adaptions to calls in warning signals when different predators are circling[7]. How the effects of the sound of the waterfalls and road noise affect the circadian rhythm of species [5][3][8][9].

An audio specialist as well as an ecologist will perform the sound analysis. Spectrograms of the recording can also be produced to provide a visual graph of the data for further analysis. All data can be compared to provide a fuller picture of the area, in terms of biodiversity, natural ecological acoustics, and human interaction.


The target audience for this project is predetermined by the several outputs of the proposal. Central to the aims of the project is the representation of conservation efforts in a quantifiable form. Therefore, the following target audience is identified:

  1. Conservation and ecological researchers engaged with government bodies and trusts such as Natural Resources Wales, Forestry Commission, Woodland Trust, RSPB, and Welsh Water.
  2. Educational Institutions wishing to develop a program in Sound recording, Innovation in Microphone Technology, Sonic Art and Soundscapes.
  3. Environment Agency and Welsh Government for analysis and strategic management to discover the validity and progress of funding proposals and project outcomes.
  4. Independent researchers and forest caretakers who have an interest in ecological conservation.


Woodland Visitors and Personnel: Research Data created inadvertently promotes the development of our ecology, therefore our audience becomes the millions of visitors to outdoor centres and woodland walks throughout the UK[10][11].

Disabled: Accessibility is an important part of our civic cohesion. Listening to soundscapes offers the listener a depth of experience that cannot be seen in pictures, and could be considered by many as a restorative and healing process. The soundscape also offers an alternative to those who will unfortunately never get the opportunity to explore some of our wild countryside as those more abled persons. Therefore, through the distribution of, and access to soundscapes, we can provide a more inclusive and life enhancing experience from our natural environments[10].

Figure 2: Spectrogram of Parus Major (Great Tit)

Schools and youth groups are also good secondary audience, as it would be an opportunity to 

educate our young people to respect our natural resources, and tackle some of the challenges around sustainable development, and promote an awareness of long-term well-being[12].


The number for the first-tier target is expected to be a couple of hundred in the UK leading to a couple of thousand internationally. The audience size may be minimal due to the number of researchers in this field who will take an interest. Though the first tier has a small membership, their impact on the ecological development and environmental security are paramount to the importance of such a study, as they will be deciding the outcomes of our environment for future generations.

This study facilitates these decision makers with the most accurate data that our current technology can provide.

Within the second tier, and given the range and variety of output, we are expecting to meet very high numbers leading to the hundreds of thousands of visitors to woodland centres throughout the year. Internet numbers could also be high with visitors planning and discovering a little about their trip before they arrive.


Accessibility to digital technology is the key word for developing this project. Access to quality recording technologies can be expensive and may even be inaccessible to interested parties. Therefore the author has been privately developing different microphone technologies, which can be considered as affordable. With an interest in promoting innovation, the microphones have been designed so that they can be made at cost by acquiring the parts off the shelf, with detailed instructions for their manufacture.

The first prototype to extend this approach was Speed Fit Hydrophone which can be found here:

We are currently working towards developing The Affordable Ambisonic Microphone which can be downloaded from open share databases and 3d printed. The research into this project stands on the shoulders of pioneers such as Michael Gurzon, Fons Adriaensen, Arron Heller, and Lopez-Lezcano [13]–[16], [17],


Research for this project has is now completed, and we are currently now wanting to move to prototyping. We have a dedicated forum for the purposes of reviewing and testing this microphone, with professionals in the field of

Sound Recording, Ambisonics, and Virtual Reality. Group Members include Trond Lossius,

Figure 3 Mk2 Ambisonic Microphone Prototype

The Woodland Soundscape Project

We are currently looking for funding to move this project on to enable us to bring the project into education and distribution.

Jack Head Microphone is designed to turn the Zoom H6 recorder into a dedicated and wireless recorder for recording soundscapes in 6 channels. This microphone converts the H6 into a surround sound recorder on the Horizontal Plane, with a detailed front stereo.

In further developing the breadth of this project we are also in the process of developing a 5.1 Microphone.

Installation of Automated Audio Recorders

For the purposes of addressing the second tier in tandem with collecting research data, the project intends to install automated audio recorder, which can be left out permanently, to provide monthly weekly or daily broadcast of a specific location over the internet.
The unit will consist of a small processor and sound card, mounted in a waterproof box which will have attached two purpose built microphones that can be unplugged should the unit need maintenance. This makes swapping over microphones if needed a very quick and simple process ensuring that any issue with the microphone being constantly exposed to the weather, can be easily dealt with.

The Microphones will be caged which will protect the microphones as well shelter them from wind and rain.

The Tree for Life Project has agreed to have one of these recorders at their Lodge in Dundreggan, which would be an ideal first test for such a device. This project will initially run for a year, but the intention is to have the unit recording for a much longer period than this, as its data will also begin to build a database of recordings which can be used to assess the stability of the project over the years. It is the Authors hope that this test period with The Tree for Life Project will set a precedence for other recording sites across the UK. at-highlands-rewilding-hotspot/

The soundscapes recorded which will be timed with Dawn Choruses, will be uploaded directly on to a page such as Soundcloud, and provide the project an immediate link to its community of supporters, as well as promoting the idea of rewilding and cultivating an ethos of a shared environment with new listeners throughout the world, and at any time of the day. The benefits for interested listeners and prospective volunteers is a sense of belonging to a place, as each recording is capable of providing an effect equal to that of virtual reality in a single medium.


[1] R. M. Schafer, The Soundscape, Our Sonic Enviroment and the Tuning of the World. Rochester: Destiny Books, 1977.
[2] A. Farina, P. James, C. Bobryk, N. Pieretti, E. Lattanzi, and J. McWilliam, “Low cost (audio) recording (LCR) for advancing soundscape ecology towards the conservation of sonic complexity and biodiversity in natural and urban landscapes,”
Urban Ecosyst., vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 923–944, 2014.

[3] N. Pieretti and A. Farina, “Application of a recently introduced index for acoustic complexity to an avian soundscape with traffic noise.,” J. Acoust. Soc. Am., vol. 134, pp. 891–900, 2013.

[4]  A. Farina, “Soundscape Ecology,” p. 315, 2014.

[5]  B. C. Pijanowski, L. J. Villanueva-Rivera, S. L. Dumyahn, A. Farina, B. L. Krause, B. M.

Napoletano, S. H. Gage, and N. Pieretti, “Soundscape Ecology: The Science of Sound in the Landscape,” Bioscience, vol. 61, no. 3, pp. 203–216, 2011.
[6] A. Farina and N. Pieretti, “Sonic environment and vegetation structure: A methodological approach for a soundscape analysis of a Mediterranean maqui,”
Ecol. Inform., vol. 21, pp. 120– 132, 2013.
[7] Toshitaka N. Suzuki, “Communication about predator type by a bird using discrete, graded and combinatorial variation in alarm calls.”
[8] B. Krause, S. H. Gage, and W. Joo, “Measuring and interpreting the temporal variability in the soundscape at four places in Sequoia National Park,”
Landsc. Ecol., vol. 26, pp. 1247–1256, 2011.
[9] M. H. L. Duarte, R. S. Sousa-Lima, R. J. Young, a. Farina, M. Vasconcelos, M. Rodrigues, and N. Pieretti, “The impact of noise from open-cast mining on Atlantic forest biophony,”
Biol. Conserv., vol. 191, pp. 623–631, 2015.
[10] F. C. Scotland, “Forests for People.” [Online]. Available:$FILE/fcfc114.pdf. [Accessed: 15-Apr-2016].

[11]  W. Government, “Woodlands for Wales Indicators 2013-14,” Stat. Wales, 2014.

[12]  “Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.” [Online]. Available: to the WFGAct.pdf. [Accessed: 29-Apr- 2016].
[13] M. A. Gerzon, “The Design of Precisely Coincident Microphone Arrays for Stereo and Surround Sound,” 1975.
[14] M. Gerzon, “Ambisonics. Part two: Studio techniques,”
Reprod. from Stud. Sound, vol. 17, no. 28, pp. 24–26.
[15] M. Gerzon, “Surround-sound psychoacoustics Criteria for the design of matrix and discrete surround-sound systems,” 1974.

[16]  M. Gerzon, “What’s wrong with quadraphonics,” 1974.

[17]  F. Adriaensen, “A tetrahedral microphone processor for Ambisonic recording,” 5th Int.

Linux Audio Conf., 2007.
[18] F. Adriaensen, “A tetrahedral microphone processor for Ambisonic recording,”
5th Int. Linux Audio Conf., no. March, 2007.
[19] A. J. Heller and E. M. Benjamin, “Convention Paper 8711 the Diffuse-Field Response,”
AES 133rd Conv., pp. 1–9, 2012.
[20] F. Lopez-Lezcano, “The *SpHEAR project, a family of parametric 3D printed soundfield microphone arrays,” 2016.

©Huw McGregor 2017

© Huw McGregor 2015