Biotechnological Hub of the NIB (BTH-NIB)

The purpose of the investment project BTH-NIB is the assurance of the appropriate infrastructural conditions for the use of research and developmental opportunities in the fields of operation of the NIB.

Play Video About project      Publication

Ecotremology – Investigating ecological interactions through vibroscape

Project coordinator: Rok Šturm, PhD

Code: Z1-50018

Duration: 1. 10. 2023 – 30. 9. 2025

In the postdoc research project, I am studying the vibroscape in a meadow habitat in order to provide a platform for ecotremological studies. Communication by substrate-borne vibrations is one of the oldest and most widespread forms of animal communication, particularly common among arthropods. The increased awareness of the importance of substrate vibrations to organisms has recently led to the definition of biotremology, as a new scientific discipline studying animal behaviour associated with substrate-borne vibrations. While the importance soundscape and ecoacoustic studies in community ecology, biodiversity and habitat assessment has been recognized, the importance of substrate vibrations has been overlooked, due to a long-lasting neglect of substrate vibrations as an important source of information in the environment because a sensory barrier that isolated the vibroscape from human perception. Ecotremology has been introduced as a discipline consistent with paradigms of ecoacostics, but using substrate vibrations to study ecological processes and propose more effective plans for biological conservation.

The main goals of the project are (1) to describe how vibroscape changes throughout the life of insect species with different life cycles, (2) to investigate how plant phenology and habitat change affect vibrational communities and (3) to determine whether vibroscape can provide information on meadow restoration status and thus estimate accuracy and/or adequacy of vibroscape as proxy for estimating habitat status. I will focus on meadow habitat, because here insects are by number and species richness the dominant animal group.

The proposed research is divided into four interconnected work packages (WP) that complement each other:

  • WP1 ‘Field work’ Field work associated with the above mentioned research questions.
  • WP2 ‘Audio and video analyses’ Identification of recorded vibrational signals and analyses of video-recordings.
  • WP3 ‘eDNA analyses’ Use of environmental DNA metabarcoding to determine insect communities.
  • WP4 ‘Synthesis of results’ Synthesis of the results from previous WPs.

Using laser vibrometer for recording the meadow vibroscape (left) and an example of spectrogram of a recording with labelled signals (right).

Arthropods are crucial elements of ecosystems and their decline has been recognized as critical. They primarily rely on vibrational communication and are therefore largely overlooked in the ecoacoustic studies. Ecotremology opens up the possibility of monitoring a wide variety of arthropod species that are essential for ecosystem functioning and conservation, but are not accessible through other non-invasive methods. Besides scientific excellence, the project also supports the transfer of knowledge and promotion of science.

The project will focus on vibroscape of a meadow where Dicranotropis hamata (left), Ribautodephax albostiratus (midle) in Aphrodes makarovi (right) leafhoppers live and communicate. Photo:

The research project Z1-50018 is financed by Javna agencija za raziskovalno dejavnost Republike Slovenije from national budget.

Key information about the project (SICRIS)