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Research Initiation Award: Testing the Mechanisms Underlying Noise Avoidance by Animals


Award Abstract #1800687 Research Initiation Award: Testing the Mechanisms Underlying Noise Avoidance by Animals

NSF Org: HRD Division Of Human Resource Development divider line Initial Amendment Date: May 21, 2018 divider line Latest Amendment Date: May 21, 2018 divider line Award Number: 1800687 divider line Award Instrument: Standard Grant divider line Program Manager: Claudia M. Rankins HRD Division Of Human Resource Development EHR Direct For Education and Human Resources divider line Start Date: November 1, 2018 divider line End Date: October 31, 2021 (Estimated) divider line Awarded Amount to Date: $293,316.00 divider line Investigator(s): Louise Allen allenl@wssu.edu (Principal Investigator) divider line Sponsor: Winston-Salem State University 601 S Martin Luther King Jr Dr Winston Salem, NC 27110-0003 (336)750-2413 divider line NSF Program(s): HIST BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIV divider line Program Reference Code(s): 1594, 9264 divider line Program Element Code(s): 1594 ABSTRACT

The Historically Black Colleges and Universities-Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) Research Initiation Awards (RIAs) provide support to STEM faculty at HBCUs to pursue research at their home institution, at an NSF-funded Center, at a research intensive institution or at a national laboratory. The RIA projects are expected to help further the faculty member's research capability and effectiveness, to improve research and teaching at their home institution, and to involve undergraduate students in research experiences. With support from the National Science Foundation, Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) seeks to advance the research capacity of a biologist by developing a collaboration with a leader in the field of soundscape ecology at Boise State University. The investigator and several minority undergraduate students will work on a research project examining the influence of noise on wildlife. Noise is an important and growing component in both natural and human systems. Anthropogenic sounds, including those from transportation networks, power generation, motorized recreation, urban development, and fossil fuel extraction are loud and pervasive. Remote wilderness areas are not immune and transportation noise is a near universal component of the modern acoustical landscape with noticeable levels of airway, railway, and roadway noise reaching nearly all corners and counties in the continental USA. Meanwhile natural sounds, such as a morning birdsong chorus or the thunder of a mountain river, can be loud and prominent environmental features that are present in virtually all environments. A substantial body of work has revealed that organisms change behaviors and distributions due to noise, yet the underlying mechanisms remain largely unknown. The education and research experiences provided by this project will contribute to WSSU's efforts to broaden the participation of underrepresented groups in wildlife biology and also help prepare students for graduate school and the Nation's STEM workforce.

Three hypotheses have been proposed to explain noise avoidance by animals: 1) masking of important auditory information (when the signal and noise acoustically overlap), 2) distraction, a limitation of available processing resources (independent of signal and noise overlap), and 3) noise aversion (associated with a stress response). To tease these hypotheses apart, the researcher and students will conduct a series of lab-based experiments focused on performance and stress in animals foraging in noise. Several species of bats and birds that vary in their reliance on sound for hunting will be pitted against prey in a large flight room. Simultaneously, behavior will be filmed with high-speed cameras and heart-rate, a measure of perception and stress, captured using radio tags. Predators will be trained to locate prey-generated sounds. During the experiments the animals will be observed foraging in quiet control or two noisy soundscape conditions (each with different frequency profiles). If masking is responsible for noise avoidance, then a reduction in foraging success should occur only when the noise overlaps with prey signals. If distraction underlies noise avoidance, foraging deficits will be equal for both noise conditions. However, if aversion explains noise avoidance, a heart rate response will be observed with no decline in foraging success. Understanding the mechanisms driving noise avoidance is critical for the development of sensory ecology theory and anthropogenic noise policy.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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  • Status

    Open

  • Institution Type

    Master's Colleges and Universities - Medium programs

  • Full Name

    Research Initiation Award: Testing the Mechanisms Underlying Noise Avoidance by Animals

  • Award Number

    1800687

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