This summer I’ve been hired as an intern at the University of York Department of Electronic Engineering. Specifically to work for the Entomological Bioacoustics office, working with Dr David Chesmore and Dr Alan Millard.
The goal of the internship is to produce an acoustic probe to record soil biology, with the intention of using a neural network to process the audio and extract the biological contents of the soil. With the knowledge of what biology is living within the soil, the department is hoping to use this as a fast and cheap empirical measure of soil quality. Basically speaking, it was explained to me that certain species live in healthy soil whereas other species are pests and that all these species make unique sounds. So, if we can ‘hear’ plenty of the good species and few of the pest species, we can hopefully correlate this to healthy soil, giving farmers an almost instant approximation of soil quality without the need for an expensive and slow environmental lab.
I’ve been hired for 10 weeks to research and build a probe for recording soil biology. My first thought is how great it’ll be to put my audio technology background to use, especially in a surprising and unconventional field. My second thought was how fun and interesting it will be to touch on some mechanical engineering and product design, a subject I have a little experience in but have gotten rather rusty in lately!