Sounds from the field

Photo:  Bruce Marlin
Photo:  Sandy Rae

Photo: Sandy Rae

Photo: Kasey Fowler-Finn

Photo: Kasey Fowler-Finn

How are sounds collected?

Using a specialized laser recording device, called a laser vibrometer, the Fowler-Finn lab can capture the sounds of insect movement on the stems and leaves of plants. When we amplify these sounds, we reveal a hidden world that would otherwise be inaudible.


Cornell's Macaulay Sound Library

The Macaulay Library is the world’s premier scientific archive of natural history audio, video, and photographs. Macaulay's mission is to facilitate the ability of others to collect and preserve such recordings, and to actively promote the use of these recordings for diverse purposes spanning scientific research, education, conservation, and the arts.

We contribute recordings of vibrational signals to the Macaulay library to share access to the amazing sounds!


Turning sound into art

A Scuttering Across the Leaves

In 2015, Kasey Fowler-Finn and world-renowned sound artist Stephen Vitiello journeyed to Mountain Lake Biological Station to record sounds from insects communicating through the stems and leaves of plants. Those initial recordings developed into an immersive audio exhibit, known as "A Scuttering Across the Leaves", that brought visitors into the depths of plant-borne sound.

This extraordinary world--undetected and unknown to most of the audience--was revealed on a unique, 145-speaker system (The Cube) at Virginia Tech. The show ran for only 10 days in 2015 but drew over 500 visitors.