Justin Sassier

From neuroscience to ecology: what is the impact of urban noise on the development of urban wildlife?

Because of human population growth, landscapes are changing at a global scale and this is associated with unprecedent urban intensification and urban sprawl. In addition, the creation of new roads, rail tracks and anthropogenic activities routes creates important environmental changes with detrimental impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems. Urbanization is tightly linked to noise pollution and this type of pollution is recognized as a major source of disturbance for wildlife. It is also known to cause detrimental effects on multiple aspects of human health (sleep, learning etc.). Intriguingly, the impact of noise pollution on wildlife have only been partially understood and studied. In particular, further research is warranted to test the physiological and developmental impacts of noise on wild vertebrates. Such research is crucial to understand how noise may alter the functioning of organisms that live in urban environments.

Birds may be particularly impacted by this type of pollution. Because of their plasticity, many species of birds are able to live in noisy urban areas. Moreover, their reproduction is based on complex acoustic signals (song, begging for nestlings, territoriality) which can be disturbed by this noise pollution. Furthermore, they are often exposed to important levels of noise that may be detrimental to their physiology. For all these reasons, birds are excellent study models to characterize the consequences of noise pollution on the functioning of urban organisms.

In that context, my PhD will combine ecological, physiological and neurosciences approaches to investigate how noise pollution may impact the cognitive development of urban wildlife. Firstly, I will compare urban and non-urban populations of great tits (Parus major) to test how anthropogenic noise may affect reproduction and the development of nestlings. In addition to this field approach, I will also use an experimental approach to study how noise pollutionmay alter the neuronal and physiological mechanisms that govern the cognitive abilities of birds. This second part will be conducted at the laboratory under controlled conditions with zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata). Overall, my PhD project will help us better understanding the impacts of noise pollution on urban wild vertebrates.

PhD student in the ECOPHY team (2020-2023)
Supervisors : Frédéric Angelier (CEBC), Jérôme Badaut (MRSB)
Doctoral school: EUCLIDE (La Rochelle University)
Funding bodies: MITI CNRS
Mail : justin.sassier(at)cebc.cnrs.fr