Sound Ecology: Human Noise and the Gray Catbird is an interdisciplinary project seeking to help audiences understand how human-generated soundscapes impact birdsong, including the song of the Gray Catbird.  In noisy environments, Gray Catbirds make adaptive choices that impact their song and survival. What would it look like for humans to listen closely to the Gray Catbird and be aware of our shared sound worlds?

In the ornithology lab at JMU, Dr. Dana Moseley and her students record Gray Catbird song in urban and rural environments in order to analyze how the song changes in different environments. But it's not just biologists who are interested in birdsong! Musicians have had a special fascination with birdsong for millennia. Musicians Ashkan Tabatabaie and Anna Showalter are curious about what it would be like to listen to the Gray Catbird with a musical ear and whether they could convey Professor Moseley’s birdsong research through music.

Bringing their musical and biological perspectives, these collaborators are creating a series of performances, lectures and workshops that will invite audiences to listen to soundscapes in new ways and learn about the sound ecology that humans share with the Gray Catbird.    

Litten Lecture:

Sound Ecology: how soundscapes impact the gray catbird and their avian communities
Feb 24, 7 p.m. - Forbes Center Recital Hall

Learn more about this event here.

Dr. Dana Moseley, lecture
Anna Showalter and Amanda Gookin, music 

A Book for the 'Burg:

Panel Discussion - Silent Spring: A Conversation about Sound Ecology 
March 27, 6 p.m. - Arboretum Education Center 

In her book Silent Spring, Rachel Carson asks “Can anyone imagine…a springtime without a robin’s song?” Have you thought about the role of the sounds of nature in your human experience? Join us for an interdisciplinary conversation about the sound worlds humans share with birds and animals. We’ll look through the lens of sound ecology—a discipline studying the relationship between human beings, sound, and their environment. We’ll consider how scientists, artists and educators can contribute toward the understanding and practice of a sound ecology.

Learn more about this event here

Musical Performance - The Beauty of Birdsong
May 5, 7 p.m. - The Courtyard at 17 N. Court Square 

Join pianist Anna Showalter and friends for a celebration of birdsong and music. Learn about how birds have inspired human music for millennia. Be inspired to listen to birds—the avian musicians in your neighborhood! This outdoor First Friday event will be informal and family friendly. 

Primary Collaborators

Anna Showalter, DMA student in piano, JMU

Anna Showalter comes to this project as a pianist and a music educator. She is the big picture visionary for this project and looks forward to sharing this fascinating research and music with students, bird lovers and music lovers alike.

Dana Moseley, Assistant Professor of Biology, JMU

Professor Moseley is an ornithologist who researches how urbanization and human noise impact the song of the Gray Catbird. She believes that sound can shape a community and loves to see people take the time to learn about our local bird populations.  

Ashkan Tabatabaie, Assistant Professor of Music, New College of Florida

Interdisciplinary Composer Ashkan Tabatabaie brings a background in science and electroacoustic music composition to this project. This project is one of several in which he has used music as an intuitive pathway to communicate research findings to the general public.

Audrey Lund

Violinist and visual artist, Audrey Lund is Content Strategist at Digital Content Helix LLC.  She creates digital art to accompany musical performances.


This project is made possible by support from:


This project was supported in part by the Virginia Commission for the Arts, which receives support from the Virginia General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. 

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