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In interviews with media professionals, everyone is looking for an effective phrase to communicate what soundscape analysis is and why an unnaturally loud soundscape can impede the communication strategies of various marine fauna.

In the past I've used "soundscape" and described the term as well as "noise budget" (as in, I measure the noise budget of an area to compare noise budgets in lots of environments). I think soundscape is still a pretty nebulous term. And noise budget is a little more accessible since it has an economics connotation.

But what about "acoustic prospecting"?

I was asked about this phrase today. Do I go out in the field and find areas that are relatively louder or quieter or more or less polluted by human sound? "Prospecting" makes it sound like the Gold Rush to me - like bioacousticians are adventurers in search of some acoustic commodity in the environment.

Does this phrase communicate our work better than other phrases? Yes? No? Is there another phrase or term that people have found useful in popular media to communicate soundscape work and the the effect of noise on marine fauna?

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    $\begingroup$ I agree that the economic connotations of noise budget & acoustic prospecting do not send the right message. I actually love the term 'soundscape', I think we just need to add the next step of description to bring it home-- it is like a landscape, where we have objects near and far, in a variety of colors and texture. The objects may be animal/mineral/vegetable and their relationships with the environment may change over time. With sound we use audio cues to learn about the environment, but it provides us with a similar broad spectrum of information about the world we are studying. $\endgroup$
    – Shannon
    Jul 6 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Shannon I think you should write your comment up as an answer! $\endgroup$
    – EcologyTom
    Jul 7 at 7:38
  • $\begingroup$ @EcologyTom Agreed, and done! $\endgroup$
    – Shannon
    Jul 7 at 17:25

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I agree that the economic connotations of noise budget & acoustic prospecting do not send the right message.

If a non-acoustician googles 'noise budget', they may get this answer:

A noise budget is the allocation of the noise in a signal chain that results in an acceptable signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) at the output.

Helpful? Not so much. The term 'Acoustic Prospecting' is not much better.

The term 'soundscape', on the other hand, can provide all the right connotations for non-acousticians. I think we just need to add the next step of description to bring it home-- it is like a landscape, where we have objects near and far, in a variety of colors and texture. The objects may be animal/mineral/vegetable and their relationships with the environment may change over time. With sound we use audio cues to learn about the environment, but it provides us with a similar broad spectrum of information about the world we are studying.

A landscape is a readily-available comparison for most every person, so I would recommend using this term when speaking with media and the non-acoustics world.

[Note: This was first posted as a comment]

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I agree with @Shannon; I like 'soundscape' because (at least for terrestrial systems) it has an intuitive link to 'landscape', even if it does require a bit of an explanation. I feel like non-acousticians rapidly understand something like "all the sounds produced in the environment, from animals, wind in vegetation etc." And then it's easy to give follow ups such as, "animals will react to their sound environment just as they react to their physical environment".

OP mentions marine fauna in the question, and I can see that might be a bit more difficult to draw that 'soundscape'-'landscape' link. Perhaps something like 'Sound environment' instead of 'soundscape'? Although, 'soundscape' is so widely embedded in terrestrial acoustics, perhaps there's some benefit of maintaining common terms across fields?

'Noise budget' is an interesting idea, but my immediate thought was that it is more about how animals might cope with their environment; an animal can only cope with X amount of noise before they do Y (e.g., alter behaviour etc). Just my interpretation of course, but it doesn't hold an immediate link with 'soundscape' for me. Interested to hear other's thoughts about this.

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